Hope Gives Way to Desolation in Desire

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Resident Kelvin Joseph oustide his home

Kelvin Joseph and his mother were rescued from the roof of their house after Hurricane Katrina's floods. He has returned, along with three friends. They use car batteries for electricity and get ice from the National Guard. Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR
St. Philip Church i

St. Philip Church, in the Desire neighborhood of New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward, is deserted now. Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR
St. Philip Church

St. Philip Church, in the Desire neighborhood of New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward, is deserted now.

Noah Adams, NPR
Serving children food at the Kids Cafe i

In 2004, the church's school hosted Thursday evening Kids Cafes, where children and parents gathered for a hot meal, served restaurant style. Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR
Serving children food at the Kids Cafe

In 2004, the church's school hosted Thursday evening Kids Cafes, where children and parents gathered for a hot meal, served restaurant style.

Noah Adams, NPR

At Mardi Gras time a year and a half ago, Noah Adams reported on the St. Philip's Kids Cafe — families gathering for a church cafeteria meal in the neighborhood that many New Orleanians call Desire. Last week, he returned to find a deserted, badly damaged church and desolate streets.

The church and houses around it have been spray-painted by search-and-rescue crews looking for the living and the dead following Hurricane Katrina.

On a Mardi Gras visit in 2004, the church was full of energy and young people. The Kids Cafe — with food from America's Second Harvest and cooked by students at nearby Dillard University — was designed to bring families together each Thursday evening. In a neighborhood of need such as Desire, many coming to the Kids Cafe were hungry.

But pride and pride and hope were in evidence. The Desire housing project had been replaced by family homes. People felt the worst of the drug days were past.

Now the neighborhood is virtually desolate, and there are few signs that residents plan to return.

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