Why we want to get Ms. Dorothy a house key ASAP

| April 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

The urgency of housing Ms. Dorothy

Dorothy Harris loves this city. She was born here at Southern Baptist Hospital and lived on Jefferson Highway with her husband until he died and she wound up homeless.

Dear Friend,

We will not rest until we house Ms. Dorothy Harris. She is a New Orleanian through and through. To see her perched on her walker on the streets of the French Quarter tells me that we are not doing enough yet to take care of our city’s most vulnerable people.

She allowed me to share her story with you for GiveNOLA Day, May 1.

No one wants to believe that their child or aunt or mother will end up homeless. Ms. Dorothy’s parents proudly brought baby Dorothy home from Southern Baptist Hospital 52 years ago. Four older siblings waited for her at the family house in Gert Town, near the corner of Oleander and Dante Streets.

A “Naturally New Orleans” Childhood
Little Dorothy attended Incarnate Word school on the other side of Earhart Boulevard for first and second grades, then to Lafayette Elementary School. Her father worked at the Port of New Orleans’ Public Grain Elevator at Napoleon-Nashville and the river. Her mother sold life insurance.

The family moved to Kenner in 1975, when she was still in elementary school, because her father, a veteran, got a house there through the Veterans Administration.

It was there that she suffered her first setbacks in life. Her grandmother died and something else seemed wrong. She felt like she couldn’t quiet her mind. By age 14, she had stopped going to school. By 1980, during a two-year stay at DePaul Hospital, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

But Ms. Dorothy bounced back and lived a stable life for the next 30-plus years. She took her medicine religiously, she met her husband, Tony Harris, at age 16 while she was sitting in a park near the French Quarter. Turned out he used to work with her daddy. They got married and moved in with her parents; he worked at Avondale as a welder.

Then came the setbacks again.

Her world begins to shrink.
She nursed Tony, a non-smoker, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer from exposure to asbestos. He passed in 2011. Then in January, her only brother died. She was at his bedside when he passed. She felt alone.

Ms. Dorothy kept an apartment on Jefferson Highway as long as she could, paying $600 a month. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, she could no longer work. Nobody else was able to take her in. She ended up homeless on the streets of the Quarter.

In the next few weeks, we hope to be able to find Ms. Dorothy an apartment and give her a housekey. We’ll make sure that she has ongoing rental assistance and a case manager to help take care of her needs. And we know that, also within a few weeks, in this city of rising rents, our street outreach team will find other homeless people whose stories will also break our hearts.

Please, if you are able, consider a donation to UNITY on GiveNOLA Day so that we can continue to show that we care about New Orleanians like Ms. Dorothy who have fallen on hard times.

You can donate as soon as you’re ready
This year you don’t need to wait to make your GiveNOLA gift!  A new feature allows you to schedule your donation in advance, or give anytime on May 1, GiveNOLA Day.

And this year, a group of UNITY leaders have pledged to match your gift of up to $20,000, dollar for dollar — to allow UNITY to raise $40,000 urgently needed to house chronically homeless people like Ms. Dorothy, who have mental and physical disabilities.

You are needed to house the most vulnerable people in our community. Please consider arranging your GiveNOLA gift today by clicking here.

Thank you for your generosity and compassion!



Martha J. Kegel, Executive Director

P.S. Whether you arrange your GiveNOLA gift today or make your gift on Tuesday, please know how grateful we are. You will truly make a difference in New Orleans, by helping vulnerable people achieve the safety and security of home.


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Category: Recent News, Success Stories

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