Liz McCartney, a middle school teacher, and Zack Rosenburg, a public defense attorney, were living in Washington when Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast. Six months later, they headed to New Orleans to volunteer. The city was still in shambles, with destroyed houses overcome by mold and residents desperate for help. Do they jumped in blindly with no experience and moved there permanently.
The couple moved to New Orleans in 2006 and began to meet with residents and governmental agencies to discover why reconstruction was occurring so slowly. They learned that the gutting and construction of damaged homes was conducted in a sweeping effort rather than a systematic approach, delaying the turnaround time for rebuilding.
To work more effectively, they learned how to streamline their operations from Toyota Production System professionals (TSSC), who brought to SBP the concepts of industrial and systems engineering, lean and continuous improvement right when they needed it the most. SBP crews at the time were working on 15 to 30 houses at a time and taking an average of 116 days to complete a renovation. They were able to reduce the time to 61 days, almost 50% reduction, which means more homes and more people moving back into their community.
St. Bernard Project, now SBP, is the nonproﬁt they founded that has expanded to provide relief for victims of other natural disasters in the U.S. and Caribbean.