D.C. National Mall Converted Into Construction Zone for Hurricane Victims

WASHINGTON – When the sun was still below the horizon on Friday, a nationwide effort joining religious leaders, congressional delegations and Habitat for Humanity volunteers kicked off a weeklong project to help provide permanent shelter for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

As part of Habitat's Operation Home Delivery program for Katrina victims, the "America Builds on the National Mall" project has brought together hundreds of volunteers, including employees from Freddie Mac – the sole corporate sponsor – to build 51 house frames. Each house is representative of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and will be delivered to the affected Gulf Coast region for completion.

"We felt this was a good way to help someone in New Orleans," said Chazmon Gates, 22, who works with the Arkansas congressional delegation. "We wanted to help a family outside of legislative work."

On the second day of the national build, volunteer workers were nailing and putting up the last frames of the District of Columbia house which will serve as a demonstration model throughout the week. The frames of other state houses built in the last two days have been carried into trucks, ready to be driven off to the storm-struck states.

When Gates looked around at all the different states on Saturday, he said he felt the nationwide effort “shows how America can come together to help one family.”

“We (the United States) are one," Gates stated.

From 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the home delivery project will continue to create homes on the vast mall between the nation's capitol and the Washington monument until Nov. 18. Houses representing the states most affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama – will be framed on the final day.