“I felt so cold. And lonely. And I was so scared,” said Laverne Fleming,
as she walked recently past a span of brown cardboard, spread out on a sidewalk in Central City.
Fleming, at age 69, slept in the spot for three winter months.
It had been a sickly year, as she battled breast cancer, diabetes and unaddressed heart problems that run rampant in her family.
She’d spend a few days in the hospital, then return to her cardboard bed.
I am so grateful to be able to tell you a joyful story about Laverne Fleming, who is about to move into her own apartment.
Ms. Laverne is so warm, so generous, despite a year spent fighting some very serious medical conditions. Immediately after meeting her, the outreach team from UNITY of Greater New Orleans felt the urgency of her situation. We moved her off the street into a hotel room, where she could be vaccinated for COVID-19 and connect with doctors for all of her crucial medical care.
She had spent three months sleeping outdoors, at age 69.
While she slept, she tossed and turned with worry about her ailments.
More than anyone else, Ms. Laverne knew how deadly those conditions could be. As a child, she experienced her mother dying — the first of several close family members to die young. From age 11 on, Laverne was shuffled from house to house in a daze, as one relative died after another.
“I was so lost,” she remembers. Then, 58 years later, Ms. Laverne felt lost again, as she laid on a public sidewalk, huddled under discarded clothes and blankets in an effort to stay warm. “I had nowhere else to go,” she said.
“I just wondered how she was able to survive on the streets of New Orleans, in this cold weather, with the medical issues she has,” said caseworker Laurie Arceneaux, who has been part of UNITY’s team from the start, helping Ms. Laverne heal physically. Together, they are preparing for the day — coming soon — when Ms. Laverne will get a key to her own apartment.
Ms. Laverne, we give thanks that UNITY and our partners are able to be of service to someone as wonderful as you.
And, as UNITY pushes this month to house 242 households by the end of the year, we need your help to create more success stories like Ms. Laverne’s.
I am asking for your support for UNITY’s vital work, to house the most vulnerable people in the New Orleans area.
Our vision is that — with your help — our community can finish this year with fewer of our neighbors struggling in homelessness.
If you’re able, please consider a gift to UNITY — of whatever amount you can afford. Thank you very much for your care and generosity.
Martha J. Kegel
P.S. I am so grateful for your compassion for vulnerable people. Thank you for supporting this work, to ensure that every New Orleanian has a home.