N.O. Philanthropists Pledge $845K to Address Housing, Food Crises

Official Legal Eviction Order Or Notice To Renter Or Tenant Of Home With Face Mask
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NEW ORLEANS – A group of New Orleans-area nonprofits and philanthropists – including United Way of Southeast Louisiana, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Methodist Health System Foundation Inc., the Goldring Family Foundation and Pres Kabacoff – have announced a joint effort to address the COVID-19 housing and food insecurity crisis.

Collectively, the partners are committing $845,000 to five local organizations working to provide free civil legal aid to address housing issues, rental assistance and food access.

“Inequities existed before this pandemic. The virus’ disproportionate and disparate effects are magnifying gaps in access to resources in many parts of our community,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “With ongoing health risks and unemployment, it’s harder than ever before for people to afford their basic needs, with housing and food rising to the top of the list.”

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and Families for Families will receive funding to support existing efforts to address legal housing issues and expand rental assistance program access, while funding to Second Harvest Food Bank and Share our Strength will increase food assistance to households through community food pantries and distributions.

The groups say the economic downturn spurred by the virus is further increasing the risk of housing instability for low-wage renters, especially in New Orleans, at a time when stable housing is vital. The latest ALICE Report indicates that 57% of Orleans Parish households did not earn enough money in 2018 to afford basic housing. COVID-19’s economic effects are increasing that percentage rapidly. 

Today, even substandard housing is out of reach for countless households with the expiration of enhanced weekly unemployment benefits.

Additionally, local food insecurity continues to increase rapidly as households struggle to make ends meet. In 2018, Feeding America estimated that around 16% of Southeast Louisiana residents were food insecure. Today, nearly 24% of residents are experiencing food insecurity – many for the first time.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our housing crisis in Southeast Louisiana and pushed many more families into food insecurity,” said Andy Kopplin, GNOF President and CEO. “GNOF is proud to be among philanthropic leaders taking action together to address housing and food insecurity in this moment, and to call on others, including our state and federal officials, to join us in prioritizing funding for these urgent issues as winter looms. When families double-up in apartments and shelters push their capacity, the virus spreads. We know that our $200,000 in grants–$100,000 each to the Families for Families rental assistance program and to Second Harvest Food Bank will be important as we work to meet critical needs for our families.”

Individuals in need of housing or food assistance can visit UnitedWaySELA.org/HFIC or call 211 to learn more.


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