Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

INTRODUCING: UNITY of Greater New Orleans

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I began volunteering at UNITY in September, 2015.  As a UNITY volunteer for over a year I became very aware of the homeless crisis in the city of New Orleans. Establishing relationships with clients, case managers and the UNITY staff my passion grew to be a part of the ongoing solution to end homelessness in this community.

On July 22, 2016, I became the Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA. I am very excited to begin my service term and become a full-time staff member at the UNITY warehouse.  The first two months have been very busy supervising volunteers, receiving donations and engaging potential community partnerships. I have attended Unity’s Service Providers and Professionals Association monthly staff meeting that provides an opportunity to develop relationships with case managers from our 60 member agencies. I had the privilege of attending The Brown Foundation’s Service Learning Day to promote our agency and bring knowledge about homelessness and poverty to school aged children in K-12 grades.  My goal for this year of service is to secure regular donation partnerships through local businesses, universities and faith based organizations.

UNITY describes its mission and  strategies in the following way:

Founded in 1992, UNITY, is the nonprofit organization leading a coalition of over 60 community organizations providing housing and services to the homeless. The  mission of UNITY is to coordinate community partnerships to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness. UNITY secures competitive funding from HUD and distributes the funds to 50 agencies in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. These funds require matching contributions from the community. To ensure that the funds are effectively targeted toward homelessness, UNITY implements evidence-based strategies, engages in strategic planning, and trains and evaluates service providers. UNITY conducts homeless outreach on the streets and in abandoned buildings, rehabs apartment buildings into homes, helps the public locate affordable housing, and advocates for public policy to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The work necessary to carry out UNITY’s mission … would not be possible without the concern and generosity of caring people, businesses and philanthropic organizations throughout the community and our nation.

In 2007, following Hurricane Katrina, there were an estimated 11,619 people homeless on a single night in the City of New Orleans. In 2015, UNITY served 18,488 persons who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Point in Time survey in January of 2016 revealed only 1,626 people were homeless on any single given night including 132 children and 228 youth. UNITY’s campaign to end family homelessness by November 2016 is in progress. 26 % of all homeless persons living on the street and 32% of those living on the street have a serious mental illness.

The UNITY Warehouse was established in 2008.  The warehouse principally runs on donations from the community. The warehouse provides starter kits to newly housed clients. We give a toiletry/cleaning kit, bedding kit, kitchen kit and furniture upon availability to each client. We currently have 20 volunteers weekly. Our volunteers sort donations, assemble donations and keep the warehouse looking great.

UNITY believes housing is a human right! We take a Housing First Approach to get the most vulnerable housed quickly with supportive services to help ensure they do not become homeless again.

For donation information: UNITY Warehouse Flyer

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This entry was posted on September 15, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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