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

NEW ORLEANS -- The hardest hit sections of the Lower Ninth Ward could be mistaken for the Amazon rainforest, overgrown 10 feet or more, ruined houses dotting the landscape.

But in the middle Clifton Smith mows a neighbor's empty property, glad to be living in his community.

'People look around at this, and they go, why'd you come back? It's home, it's home,' said Smith. 'A lot of people come back because it's home, some had no other place to go.'

'It breaks my heart, but when I see somebody else come back to their house, it makes me feel better though,' said Lower Ninth Ward native Darren McKinney.

Houses of returned residents dot the landscape, sometimes peeking through the overgrowth. Residents have faced years of challenges to come home.

'Toxic mold, toxic FEMA trailers, toxic sheetrock -- none of these things did anybody here any favors,' said Laura Paul, executive director of LowerNine.org. 'Contractor fraud, discriminatory federal recovery programs.'

'Sweat, tears, disgust, aggravation, and at times, sheer jubilation,' is how Audrey Celius described her nearly finished eight year journey home.

http://www.lowernine.org has been helping residents like Audrey Celius rebuild. Volunteers like these from France and Spain have her house nearly finished.

'I'm looking to just a few weeks for this being finished, and I can look back and just say, 'Thank you, Lord,'' said Celius, smiling.

But the two questions so many people are seeking answers to are what will it take, and how long will it take to bring the Lower Ninth Ward back?

'Conservative estimates have the recovery of this community taking another decade,' Paul said.

'What is the City doing' Celius said. 'Because I'm appalled.'

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