Located in the Seafood Capital of Alabama, Safe Harbor is the only government owned, non-subsidized, non-income based, affordable housing community in the United States. Established in 2008, Safe Harbor is a response to the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina, which rendered much of the Bayou La Batre community homeless. While initially compromised by the ramifications of local government corruption, Safe Harbor has since rebuilt and transformed into a reprieve for this once-struggling community.
Today, Safe Harbor’s 100 beach cottage-style modular homes provide residents with affordable, safe, and community-driven housing aimed at supporting and improving the lives of Bayou La Batre’s heart and soul – its people.
Bayou La Batre and Hurricane Katrina
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, nearly 3,000 Bayou La Batre citizens thrived in this Gulf Coast city on the shores of Alabama, fishing its waters, building ships, and enjoying their hometown. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, half of the community was devastated, with many families left homeless or displaced. Safe Harbor was established in 2008 through a FEMA Affordable Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) grant intended to assist the Bayou La Batre community in the wake of Katrina. The initiative was designed to combat homelessness by meeting residents’ immediate needs, as well as by providing the opportunity for permanent, affordable housing solutions.
From Hurricanes and Corruption to Revival
Still coping with the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the residents of Bayou La Batre looked forward to the opportunity to rebuild their lives and community utilizing the Affordable Housing grant, which FEMA awarded to only four states. Unfortunately, natural disaster was not the only obstacle they would face.
Local government corruption led to the near demise of Safe Harbor and destroyed the trust and good will of the residents and community that had been created since Safe Harbor’s beginning. The corruption caused deep division of family against family and friends against friends. The eventual federal conviction of the former mayor and grant administrator afforded the opportunity for the community to begin to heal.
As the only government owned, non-subsidized, non-income based, affordable housing community in the United States today, Safe Harbor is recommitted to fulfilling its intended vision of providing affordable, safe housing.
Today, Safe Harbor is known for its uncompromising business ethics, excellent customer service, and being a business with a soul—always recognizing that people are more than statistics and dollar signs.