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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

What was once a burned out, abandoned ruin and the subject of some Channel 4's Action Reports is now beginning a new era.

It was rebuilt as the Rosa Keller Apartment and the mission is to rescue some of the most vulnerable people who have been homeless plus those with serious disabilities and help them start over.

'This is a national best practice,' said Martha Kegel of Unity. 'It is the first building of its kind in New Orleans, but one of five that we're currently working on.'

An abandoned motel at this site burned two years ago and became such a dangerous eyesore that it was the subject of Action Reports.

'It actually burned down because homeless people were forced to squat here because of the lack of affordable housing,' Kegel said.

But it was reborn as a complex with 60 apartments, a patio, a computer center and even a fitness club. Half of the apartments go to some of the city's most vulnerable homeless, those with serious disabilities.

'We have people who have very life threatening conditions, very severe heart conditions, very severe kidney disease,' Kegel said.

But here they get the supervision to help them handle their medical issues and even find jobs.

'They can still live independently, but they need to have case management services to assist them in getting to doctor appointments and so forth,' Kegel said.

'During Katrina, I lived in the lower 9th ward and I lost just about everything,' said tenant Joann Branch, who has been living in her car on and off since Katrina.

But today Branch proudly shows off her apartment and talks about the help she receives with her health problems.

'Oh gorgeous, like in heaven,' Branch said. 'I love it. I love the view. I love everything about it.'

They say one of the nicest things about living here is that there always seems to be a breeze through the patio, and of course, there is the waterfall. The manager said that while 22 apartments have been rented at this point, there is so much interest in this place, they've received at least 300 calls from people interested in moving in here.

Half of the apartments go to workers at the bottom of the salary scale, the goal being to help them avoid a financial crisis that could make them homeless.
For more information about the Rosa Keller Apartments, call 821-8000.

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