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Wednesday, December 12


Hey all,
Finals are busy. Here's an email I received today from Catholic Charities New Orleans that outlines the work they have done within the past month to help the homeless at Duncan Plaza. I found it generally to be a good read. Catholic Charities' care for the homeless and poor in the city present a telling contrast with the drivel posted by some residents on message boards. The email is below.


Our Response to Homelessness
Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.......Matthew 25:40
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans has provided services to the homeless since its founding in 1727 by the Ursuline Nuns, who provided shelter for widows and orphaned children. 23 years ago, the Catholic Charities CARE Centers were opened, utilizing a holistic approach that addresses the many issues that lie at the root of homelessness.
In the two years since Hurricane Katrina, homelessness in New Orleans has escalated due, in large part, to the shortage of affordable housing. However, the causes of homelessness are complex. Many homless people suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. In addition to economic issues, some are fleeing domestic violence.
The encampment of homeless individuals and families in Duncan Plaza, steps from New Orleans City Hall, has been the most visible indication of the growing problem, but it is not the only area where the homeless are living. Homeless individuals and families are sleeping along Claiborne Ave. in the shelter of the interstate, in abandoned buildings and in automobiles. UNITY for the Homeless estimates there are 12,000 homeless people in the New Orleans area but the capacity of the collaborative to house the homeless is at 64% of the pre-Katrina level. As winter closes in, and the holidays approach, many in our community have expressed increasing concern for this population.
On November 21, 2007, the day before Thanksgiving, Catholic Charities, in partnership with UNITY for the Homeless, deployed a large number of staff in Duncan Plaza to being implementing a new program called Rapid Re-housing, paid for by a grant from the Department of Social Services and Administered through UNITY.
The first day, Catholic Charities workers, along with UNITY and five other agencies, were able to place 62 families/individuals in facilities for sheltering. Catholic Charities alone placed 22 families and 4 men in either motels or shelters. Our staff worked into the night providing assistance. The next week, gift cards were purchased for families needing food, and groceries were purchased for those placed in housing. An intact family with three children was quickly screened and housed. The goal is to place that family in one of our residential programs that will help them find the road to self-sufficiency.
The quick work that took place that week was made possible by a $792,051 grant to fund the Rapid Re-housing effort. One Catholic Charities intern single-handedly pre-screened 40 people living at Duncan Plaza. Most of these individuals are now being served by our Community Centers.
The new infusion of funds and the successful efforts to assist the homeless population in Duncan Plaza is only the latest chapter in a long story of Catholic Charities' work to help the homeless:
  • Our CARE Center Emergency Shelter provided emergency housing for 356 women, families and children
  • CARE Center provided housing assistance for 315 families that consists of help with a deposit and first month's rent and utilities
  • Baronne Street Transitional Housing provided a residential facility for 108 working, intact families, couples without children and single adults
  • Bridges to Self Sufficiency and Beyond Shelter are transitional housing programs that house 16 homeless families
  • Ciara Community Servicecs and Permanent Housing programs provided housing options for 131 mentally ill individuals
  • Our Community Center programs provide employment services for the homeless as well as supportive housing. These two services often give the homeless the support and skills they need to make the transition away from homlessness. Since Katrina, our case managers have assisted more than 45,000 people
  • Second Harvest Food Bank provides 1.5 million pounds of food each month to the hungry in 23 civil parishes. Food is also provided to a number of homeless shelters, including Ozanam Inn. Second Harvest is now providing MREs to those still living on the street.
  • The Hispanic Apostolate Community Services of Catholic Charities, along with St. Joseph Church, the Presentation Sisters, and the Harry Thompson Center established the St. Joseph Rebuild Center at St. Joseph Church on Tulane Ave. in September 2007. The Rebuild Center serves as a day shelter, and provides basic services such as telephone, showers, laundry and legal services for the homeless. About 140 people use these services daily and up to 175 are provided with a meal each day.
  • Catholic Charities sponsored the foundation of the Providence Community Housing initiative, which plans to develop 7,000 units to house 20,000 residents over the next 5 years.
  • Our sister agency, Christopher Homes, provides 1,200 apartments for low-income seniors
  • Operation Helping Hands has gutted the homes of 1,874 families and has rebuilt 48 homes, with more in development
  • The advocacy and homelessness prevention efforts of Catholic Charities since Hurricane Katrina have provided job training, case management and direct assistance through our Community Centers
  • We recognize that Catholic Charities is not the only ministry of the church that responds to homelessness. We are grateful for the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Ozanam Inn, as well as the many other programs and ministries and church parishes that provide services to the homeless population

Our mission statement fully explains our commitment to resolving the problem of those in our community who lack housing:

Respecting the dignity and potential of each human person, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans collaborates with the wider community to serve those in need. Impelled by the love and teaching of Jesus Christ, we offer life-giving programs, advocate for the voiceleess, and empower the poor and vulnerable to foster a more just society.

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