A Place for Family

| December 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dear Friend,

Just before Christmas, I visited with the Carter family.  Thanks to you, they were ready for a happy holiday.

The holidays can be a tough time for homeless families, who often have struggled for years before they wound up on the streets.  That’s certainly true for Latrisha Carter, her 10-year-old daughter Heaven, and her 9-year-old son Jamarius.

A year ago at Christmas, they were staying with Latrisha’s sister. Every night, the two-bedroom apartment’s beds and couches were filled and surrounded by people sleeping on little nests of pillows and blankets on the floor.  At least a dozen relatives would sleep there each night.

Last February, Latrisha saw potential to provide a home for her children in a house around the corner, despite its peeling walls and broken windows. Since her father was a carpenter, she’d learned as a young girl to glaze windows. So she talked with the landlord, who agreed to let her family move in if she did the work.

So she carefully measured the windows. Then, using the money she earned from her job at McDonald’s, she went to the lumber yard, came back with a stack of glass panes and fixed the windows. Then she fixed a big crack in the front-room wall. With the help of her brothers, she plastered and painted the interior. Finally, a place for her family, she thought.

Then the spring rain started and flowed into the home’s bedrooms. Jamarius and Heaven couldn’t sleep in their room anymore. They all slept together in the home’s one dry room. Her landlord told her he couldn’t afford to fix the roof. Instead, he put the house up for sale, then raised the family’s rent steeply so that the house would be empty for potential buyers to see. And just like that, they were homeless.

Instead of her hard work becoming a cozy home for her children, Latrisha and her two children ended up living in their car. Thanks to your support, an outreach team from UNITY of Greater New Orleans found them this fall.  When our outreach team met the family, Heaven and Jamarius were doing their homework by flashlight in the car.  UNITY immediately moved the family into a shelter. And Latrisha made a vow to her children. “I promise you that we’ll be in a house by Christmas.”

Latrisha hasn’t always been able to keep promises like this, but this year, as her children put up the family’s own Christmas tree, she thought to herself, “Wow, that actually came true.” The day before Thanksgiving, UNITY staff helped the Carters move into a Craftsman-style double shotgun with a newly remodeled bathroom.  We are helping to pay the rent, and a Case Manager from one of our member agencies checks in on them regularly.

Over the past few weeks, Jamarius and Heaven have rejoiced in each having their own rooms, holing up and reading books or playing games. But last week, they only had one room on their minds when they got off the school bus down the block and sprinted in the door—the living room where they were going to put up a Christmas tree. First they hung ornaments: red, green, gold and silver. They added lights. Then they topped it with a star.

It looked gorgeous. “Your first tree in their new home!” I said when I visited.  “Our first tree ever,” the children said. “This is our first Christmas tree ever.”

With your help, we’re working to make sure that things only get better for the Carters from now on.  With our partner agencies, we are trying to help Latrisha find a better job—one that pays well enough for the family to be self-sufficient.  Latrisha is smart, good with numbers and computers, and loves to help people.  In fact, when the family was in the shelter, Latrisha helped others in the shelter look for jobs and housing with her own car.  She’s a warm, giving woman who has a great deal of talent.

The Carters inspired us as we worked on UNITY’s most ambitious campaign ever, 200 Homes for the Holidays. During the holiday season, we exceeded our goal of placing 40 homeless families and 160 chronically homeless people with disabilities in their own apartments, with ongoing case management services.  With the help of you and other supporters in the community and our member organizations, a miracle happened!  We were able to provide 238 homes – moving 56 families out of shelters and 182 chronically homeless individuals with disabilities off the streets into apartments!

Your gift to UNITY will allow us to house even more homeless people in 2018.  Thank you for making it possible for New Orleans’ most vulnerable people to have the safety and stability of a real home in their beloved community.


Martha J. Kegel
Executive Director


P.S.—Latrisha, Heaven, and Jamarius send happy holiday wishes from their home to yours.  Please make your gift today to create a home for more families like the Carters.




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