New Orleans Women & Children’s Center: From Homelessness To Happiness
In a city that showers tourists with a largess of decadence and revelry and an abundance of food, music and entertainment, it’s perplexingly paradoxical that nearly half of all resident children live in poverty and a majority are facing homelessness.
According to the New Orleans Women & Children’s Shelter (NOWCS), 2020 S. Liberty St., which is dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness, local women and children become homeless due to unemployment, generational poverty and a lack of affordable housing.
“When people show up on our doorstep, they have been living on their aunt’s sofa until she just can’t take care of them anymore, or they are living out of their car because they didn’t make the rent and were kicked out of their apartment,” Dawn Bradley-Fletcher, NOWCS Executive Director, said. “The families that come to us have run out of other options.”
NOWCS statistics show the unemployment rate in New Orleans is 5.7 percent compared to the national 4.9 percent; 28 percent of residents and 44 percent of children live in poverty; 36 percent of households spend 50 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities; and since 2012 homelessness among women has increased 66 percent.
“We are determined that this vulnerable population not be left behind,” Dan Silverman, NOWCS co-founder and Board Chair, said. “The circumstances that have created these problems can and must be addressed in a comprehensive approach to move each family from homelessness to independent sustainable lifestyles.”
The NOWCS, a registered 501(c)(3) and the largest shelter for homeless women and children in New Orleans, is celebrating 10 years or service and has helped more than 1,200 women and children go from being homeless to living in affordable housing. Since 2007, an average of 88 percent of families served by the Shelter transitioned to independence and stability.
The organization focuses on women and children with a distinct program model addressing sheltering, case management and education.
To provide the first step of achieving safety and stability, the Shelter helps those in need recover from the trauma of homelessness by arranging for private family bedrooms, daily meals, shelter meetings and age appropriate activities for kids.
The case management phase assesses the needs of each family member and sets attainable goals for independence. Adults are linked with government and community-based resources and personal financial literacy workshops.
Employment and educational services include continued education programs to obtain a GED, job training, resume writing and job placement.
Children’s enrichment services help to overcome learning losses and kids are enrolled in public school or day care, after school and summer programs and take part in local field trips, Shelter reps said.
The Shelter stays actively involved with an additional Transition Assistance Program geared to prevent participating families from returning to homelessness. It helps families maintain affordable housing in a safe and stable home setting, provides links to resources and offers ongoing case management with designated case managers.
The Shelter opened in 2007 in response to the loss of housing after Hurricane Katrina. To date, the NOWCS has helped large percentages of families it served go from homelessness to stability:
2009 – 57%
2010 – 68%
2011 – 88%
2012 – 83%
2013 – 92%
2014 – 88%
2015 – 85%
Tax deductible donations to the NOWCS go toward:
$10 – Feeding a homeless child or mother for a day
$20 – Housing a homeless child for a day
$35 – Getting a mother and child off the streets into a safe and secure facility
$70 – Feeding and housing a family of three for two days
$100 – Providing services needed to re-enroll a child into school
$250 – Feeding and housing a family of three for a week
$500 – Supporting one week of children’s after school programming for up to 20 school age kids
Donations can also go toward the Children’s Sheltering Fund which will be matched up to $75,000, allowing the group to raise $150,000 for homeless children in New Orleans. NOWCS reps said 95 percent of the children at the shelter are under the age of 10. All contributions earmarked for the Children’s Sheltering Fund provide for the direct costs of sheltering and nurturing children until they are prepared to move forward with their family, Shelter reps said.
“Beyond the programs that the New Orleans Women and Children’s Shelter already provides, our leaders are at the forefront of the broad-based community effort to develop even more resources to address the ongoing needs,” NOWCS’ Silverman said. “Expanding services for even more women, children and families remains our primary objective.”