Hope for the Holidays
With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to make plans to join the New Orleans Mission in caring for the least fortunate among us.
Lunch at the New Orleans Mission.
All photos by Cheryl Gerber
Sixteen hundred and twenty-six — that’s how many men, women and children are living on the streets of New Orleans on any given night according to 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2010, that number was much higher — closer to 5,000 — but while significant strides have been made to reduce the number of homeless in the city, they remain a population desperately in need of help, and the New Orleans Mission represents a vital lifeline.
“Many of the efforts to help the homeless focus on simply rescuing them,” said David Bottner, CEO of the New Orleans Mission. “We, however, are also about helping them recover and reengaging them to the life they were created for by God.”
Did You Know?
Dying Young on the Streets
According to an article in The Times-Picayune published this past February, 44 homeless people died on the streets in 2016, the first time data of this kind had been tracked. The average age at death was 47 years old; the youngest was 28.
Founded in 1989, the New Orleans Mission is the largest care provider for New Orleans’ homeless community. The non-profit organization provides the city’s homeless with shelter, clothing, access to free medical services, job training and spiritual guidance.
“Food and clothing are the tools, the means for survival, so then the real change can happen and positive futures can be lived,” said Bottner. “Our core value is about changing lives and leading people to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. We do this through a variety of programs and services that are designed to holistically meet the mental, physical, social and spiritual needs of the individuals we serve.”
Pictured, left: David Bottner, CEO of the New Orleans Mission
The mission itself, however, is having some issues with its home. Headquartered at the former A. Levitan Furniture Store on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City, the 30,000-square-foot building was built in the early 1900s and has long been in need of repair and renovation. To answer this need, the mission began a $6.6 million “Raise the Roof” campaign last summer to address many of the building’s problems. There have already been improvements to the roof and to the building’s structure, and the next phase includes new interior walls, paint, ceilings, flooring, lighting fixtures, offices, security cameras and a key entry system. The contractor for the project is Robert Wolfe Construction with architectural plans by Blitch Knevel Architects.
“This project will improve our ability to offer assistance to our city’s least fortunate while enhancing the four-block area around our facility,” explained Bottner.
The New Orleans Mission’s services include “Road to Recovery,” a rehabilitation program for those struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, veteran assistance, case management, a women’s center, a discipleship program that allows guests to help others and comprehensive transitional counseling services for the formerly incarcerated through the “Ex-Offender Re-Entry” program.
Two years ago, the mission moved its men’s 24/7 discipleship program to Lacombe. The Giving Hope Retreat sits on 58 acres of rural land and provides spiritual and vocational programs to about 40 men now living at the facility.
In all, the organization includes 25 paid staff and 10,000 volunteers. As the mission’s website states, “You don’t need to leave the U.S. to lend a helping hand to hurting people.”
“We could not function without our volunteers’ efforts,” said Bottner. “Many of the people we serve have felt unworthy and have felt shame. If you only knew what their hearts have been through. By being involved, you can set in motion a wave of compassion that will touch many lives. You can change the world.”
INDUSTRY STEPS UP: A Home For Everyone
The New Orleans Mission is a favorite cause for local realtors.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors (NOMAR) recently launched its homeless initiative, “Hope to Home.” The organization plans to match its more than 5,000 members of the residential and commercial real estate community with homeless providers around the city.
“We want to become an advocate for the homeless by partnering with existing homeless providers dedicated to supporting homeless people with children, and to advocate and assist in the development of permanent supportive housing in New Orleans,” said Paul Richard, NAI Latter & Blum.
Of particular note is the work NOMAR will be doing with the New Orleans Mission and Grace House Bridge House. The Commercial Investment Division (CID) of NOMAR will assist the New Orleans Mission with the development of housing units for homeless women with children in cooperation with the Open Architecture Collaborative. The project is focused on mission-owned land on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. at Clio Street.
Gardner Realtors has also been lending its support to the New Orleans Mission for some time. Through the company’s Gardner LOVE program, volunteers set tables and serve dinner to the mission’s clients.
“I’ve never seen the dining room empty,” said Mary Spivey, who works in Gardner Realtor’s home relocation department. “Sometimes we even serve two meals. We clean up and start it all over again. The last time I was there, we served a man who that day got a great job offer. It was so good to see him so happy and proud.”
Gardener also recently purchased a building, now named The Gardner Cottage, which expanded the mission’s women’s center from 16 beds to 32.
Working to eradicate homelessness in the city is a natural fit for the real estate industry, said Richard.
“The Realtor community is all about housing,” he said. “We should all care enough to help the homeless find a home, to build a better life and to again become a contributing member of our community.”
New Orleans Mission
SUCCESS BY THE NUMBERS
unique individuals helped
of whom were veterans
bottles of water given out
hygiene kits distributed
articles of clothing distributed
annual eye exams offered
pairs of eyeglasses provided
Christmas presents given out to children
patients treated by clinics offered by LSU and Tulane
men and women aided in transitioning from a life of hopelessness to one of hope
Devon Black is an important part of the mission’s team as he oversees its successful media department.
Black came to the mission in 2015. “I had no job, no network of support, I’d burned every single bridge,” he said. Black said coming to the Mission was a turning point in his life. “I saw that I was finally going to make the right change because I was in the right place and it was the right time.”
Black was one of the first of the mission’s clients to begin using videos and social media to get the word out about the organization’s mission.
“Our goal is to engage our funders and we also reach out to potential funders,” he said. “We didn’t know how to even work the video camera back then but we just turned it on and began learning on the job.” Black says he has greatly enhanced his resume with valuable skills and strengthened his network of support. For the first time in a long time, he plans to have Thanksgiving with his family this year.
Christina Kosinski’s young son had just passed away and she’d lost custody of her daughter when she hit rock bottom.
“I was very lost and broken and beaten down by life,” she said. One night, after having her drink spiked, she says she somehow ended up at the bus station without a phone and it was then that she broke down, “I just said, ‘I’m just done. God, now what?’”
Someone suggested that the mission might be able to help, so she took the chance.
“I just knew there was more to life,” she said. Kosinski has since received her GED and is building a firm foundation for her new life. She’s now working full-time as the mission’s development coordinator and also runs the children’s ministry for her church. “I see what God is painting for me and I’m letting God make my decisions,” she said. She hopes to be reunited with her daughter soon.
THE BASICS: The New Orleans Mission
Mission: The purpose of the New Orleans Mission is to “help hurting people” see that there is hope, whether they struggle with addiction, homelessness, hunger, health concerns, mental illness or a lack of education.
Website: neworleansmission.orgLocation: 1130 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans
Phone: (504) 523-2116
Giving Hope Retreat
31294 Hwy 190
Annual Budget: $2 million
Major Fundraising Event:
The New Orleans Mission’s 5th Annual Gala, “Changing the Face of Homelessness”
December 8, 2017 | Hyatt Regency
The event’s special guest this year will be nationally acclaimed Christian music artist Jonny Diaz, known for his top-20 hit single, “Breathe.” It will also feature Ron Hall, author of The New York Times best selling novel and soon-to-be-released movie, “Same Kind of Different as Me.”
The mission also has a wide variety of fundraising opportunities throughout the year, from custom car shows to motorcycle runs.
A GOOD MATCH FOR COMPANIES WHO…
...are looking for an opportunity to volunteer as a group and make a difference. Groups are welcome to help organize and serve dinner at the mission year-round, but the holiday season is an especially popular time to give.
During the New Orleans Mission’s Great Thanksgiving Banquet, companies are welcome to help serve 700 to 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to hungry men, women and children, as well as assist with outreach to the community. A Christmas dinner will also be served. For dates of upcoming holiday dinners, visit NewOrleansMission.org.
Companies can also invite customers or clients to support the mission by displaying one of the mission’s table tents in their establishment. The display offers the opportunity to make a contribution and receive a “Card of Hope.” The card can be given to a homeless person in lieu of cash to be redeemed at the mission for one day of food, clothing and shelter.
For more information, contact Lulu Peterson at (504) 914-3474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission’s most pressing need is raising $1.4 million to finish its “Raise the Roof” project. Ongoing needs include the following:
55-gallon and 30-gallon trash bags
Fabuloso, Pinesol and bleach
Dish washing liquid
Sanitary napkins and tampons
Allergy and cold medication
Plates, forks, spoons and napkins
Unwrapped toys for boys and girls ages 1 to 13
They also have an ongoing need for G.E.D. instructors, data entry and phone help.