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At UNITY’s annual meeting — on Wed., March 27 — we will announce new data showing a decrease in homelessness over the past year. Join us!
Wednesday, March 27 at 10 a.m.
Holy Angels Concert Hall
3500 St. Claude Ave.
The meeting will also feature:
– a keynote speech about jazz and homelessness by Irvin Mayfield
– remarks by Martha Burt, one of the nation’s most prominent researchers on homelessness
– introductions to people that UNITY and its 63 member agencies housed this year
– several awards to advocates and agencies
Mayfield’s speech is entitled “Jazz, Community, and Homelessness.” Burt’s will be called, “What Everyone Ought to Know About Homelessness.”View Post
It’s the most basic reason for New Orleans’ constant churn of homeless households: when people can’t earn enough to afford rent, they fall into homelessness. Check out the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s new Out of Reach report: “The estimated average wage for a Louisiana renter is $12.57.
So, to afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 49 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.View Post
UPDATE: To all of our Point in Time count volunteers — thanks so much for the many hours you spent on the streets counting homeless individuals earlier this month. Thanks to HUD, the VA, the city of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and everyone else who sent volunteers. We expect to release results in May.
The Point in Time count provides critical information about the city’s homeless and will affect UNITY’s work and data for the year to come. For more information on the Point in Time count, click here.
By Mike Miller, UNITY’s director of supportive-housing placement
There is one simple vindication for all the daily frustrations of being an outreach worker — the disjointed, the systems of broken systems, the personal ravages of the street of those living on it.
This last blog of the year pays homage to all the empty doorways, benches and abandoned buildings throughout New Orleans — places that were once home to some of our hardest-to-house homeless people.
This year, we decimated our “ Tenacious Ten” list – those people who have, sometimes for years, resisted our best efforts to house them.
We still have our holdouts, but it’s time to celebrate our successes:
• The empty doorway above represents four years of collective outreach. The elderly gentleman who called these bricks home was so paranoid it took two years just to get his name. There weren’t any neighbors advocating for him and the surrounding businesses never took stock of the old man and his tattered blanket. The only people aware of his feral existence was our group of outreach workers and the occasional late-working lawyer of the law office he slept in front of.
He’s now housed.
• In front of a fast food restaurant serving thousands daily on one of the busiest streets of New Orleans, an elderly woman sat stoic in a dingy festival chair. In her late xities, she refused all placements– emergency, transitional, family re-unification and otherwise. Five years of freeze plans, a few hurricanes (graciously weathered in the nearby corner bar) and the brutal humidity of New Orleans summers barely dented her over-dressed resolve for street habitation.
Through luck, timing and focus; she too is housed.
• Another case was the developmentally disabled man who roamed the hospital district in secondhand suits until finally collapsing in exhaustion in front of a heat grate outside a shuttered VA hospital.
The morning waitresses of a famed 24-hour dinner get the assist on this one. His 15-year odyssey of chain-smoking and block cutting ended when they wouldn’t give him his morning eggs anymore until he worked with UNITY. Sometimes it takes a village (and an admirable Western Omelet).
• Another highlight was the 68 year-old man, wrists covered in hospital bracelets and pants caked with feces. His 15-year jaunt with vascular dementia, Mad Dog 20/20 and leaving hospitals AMA (Against Medical Advice) ended when outreach convinced a clinic doctor that he really needed a nursing home. After a brief, 15-hour day sitting in the firm plastic chairs of the urgent care clinic in the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, his homelessness ended with the incomprehensible signature of a disinterested and reluctant internal medicine specialist. Not done with passion or conviction. But housed.
I’ve always said that the moment a chronically homeless client gets their keys is anti-climatic. Usually, a client takes the keys, walks around the apartment, mutters an intangible thank you and then you leave. The glossy photos of cute clients smiling joyfully and holding their new keys are few and far between.
Returning to your cluttered and over-crowded office carved out of a utility closet, you flick the dried mouse turds off your desk and wonder want just happened. Years of rapport building, advocating, collecting mountains of documentation and case-planning abruptly end. You move onto your next client.
Sometimes, the only thing you have to show for your work is one more empty doorway. Honestly, that’s more than enough.View Post
By Mike Miller, UNITY’s director of supportive-housing placement
Sometimes I have trouble explaining what I do for a living. When I say I work with the homeless, people often search for an appropriate response.
Usually I get: “So what exactly does that mean?”
Or sometimes: “Some people don’t really want help, right?”
People in our community confront homelessness daily as they traverse their daily routines of work, school, and home. I have no doubt that everyone wants to do something, to acknowledge the humanity sprawled on the sidewalk or huddled under a tattered blanket. Sometimes we give a dollar or two. Sometimes we lie and say we don’t have any change. In a country of so much privilege, we wonder how someone can fall so low and become so desperate.
Yeah, I’m a social worker. Often I’m also a psychotherapist, a substance abuse counselor, a realtor, a pharmacist, a taxi driver, an EMT, a parole officer. Sometimes even a cop. Mostly, though, I’m just a nephew, brother, or grandson.
The picture above is my Uncle Jesse. He’s not my literal uncle, that’s just his name. He’s been Uncle Jesse since I found him sleeping under a wharf outside the French Quarter or on his wet piece of cardboard behind the ferry terminal. He was Uncle Jesse when we visited him in the hospital, stood next to him in homeless court, and introduced him to his new landlord.
We’ve been a lot to Uncle Jesse; a blog post can’t do the work justice. I just hope a picture will do.
The “before” picture on the top is my old friend the day we started assessing him and beginning the process of housing him. The “after” pictures, below, show Uncle Jesse and me standing outside his apartment, at the moment he was told he would get his disability from Social Security. The “after” pictures represent six months of work, dozens of appointments, mountains of paperwork and connections to services. Most importantly, these pictures are proof of the healing power of a home.
What I do is not about homelessness. It’s about working with our sickest, most vulnerable brothers and sisters. That’s how we end homelessness.
Sweet Baton Rouge Advocate story today by Danny Monteverde, about Dionne Webb, a low-income working tenant at The Rosa F. Keller Building who pays $518 in rent — what about half of the city’s apartments charged before Katrina, but now a rarity. UNITY is following the same model for a similar building on Louisiana Avenue. Read the story here.View Post
Here are three new funding opportunities for agencies interested in ending homelessness for people in New Orleans: