Saturday, August 2, 2008

Homeless in New Orleans

At The End Of The Tunnel : Lantern Light
Debbie Lindsey & Phil LaMancusa
Twelve thousand or more homeless people are estimated to be in town and they ain’t having any fun! There were six thousand before the storm and it went down to two thousand the year after Katrina. Count them, identify them, help them? How? There’s no housing, unless you consider sleeping under an over-pass; on a park bench; or in an abandoned, mold filled house as a place to hang your hat. And lord help the hapless, homeless fool who works his ass off washing dishes or sweeping our streets that has the audacity to not be able to afford the reaming that most landlords are ready to supply. Adequate medical facilities or services are not available; not before, not now, maybe not ever. .
Why, you might ask, is someone who works…homeless? Ask your city administration, your councilperson--- your mayor. We were told that rather than have any protection from skyrocketing rents, that we would have an ‘economy driven recovery’. What that means is that, unless you’re working for $15-20.00 an hour, you cannot afford to live here. Okay, here’s your next question: what do you think a dishwasher, porter, maid, cleanup person or even gravedigger get paid? At minimum wage ($5.50 an hour), forty hours a week ($220.00) after taxes (about 25%) a working stiff has what? Do the math. Did you know that waiters get paid $2.15 an hour and rely solely on the kindness of strangers?
Folks back from evacuation moving into abandoned buildings? Yes. Teenagers back without their parents? Yes. Runaways and job-seekers looking for warmer climes? Construction workers, your average Joe, and folks thinking that there was actually a road home. Fools.
Want to hear a story? A ballet dancer with a rent paying side job gets shot in the face, spends months in the hospital, and becomes homeless. Guess what would happen to you if no one was there to pick up the tab for your rent? How long do you think your boss would hold your job? And what are city services when you’re discharged from a hospital? A one way ticket to nowhere. AND pretty soon you’re not presentable enough for anyone’s consideration.
The dignity of clean clothes, a clean body, a phone to call home; these are, for 12,000 people in New Orleans not commonplace. What you and I consider basic, are to 12,000 people living here luxury. How close are we to being number 12,001? Closer than you might think. Ask someone in the camp under the mayor’s window, there’s estimated to be about 150 of them (until they’re booted out). Ask one of the hundreds that live under the freeway on Claiborne Avenue. Oh, by the way, a homeless person’s health plan is this: Don’t Get Sick! (or get sick and die).
Where are we going with this? I want to let you know what some folks are doing to help the homeless.
1802 Tulane Avenue. Saint Joseph’s Church. Beautiful Building. Go around in back, past the parking lot and there is a wooden compound that opens it’s doors to the people who have been thrown away by society. Designed by volunteers, staffed by volunteers and powered by donations from common folks and non political organizations; this haven offers laundry facilities, showers, phone calls and food for anyone who can make it there. Sanctuary.
No one asked them to do it. Some people just do what they can for those that cannot.

From a recent church bulletin: “ Neighborhood concert with Washboard Chaz Trio at the Rebuild Center”, and “The Lantern reminds us that they are still collecting travel sized toiletries for the homeless and cell phones which are turned in for cash.” And “The Kiwanis Club of Jefferson provided and served a spaghetti dinner”, and further “St Dominic sponsored a canned good drive”,
You should visit them, they will welcome you. They can always use a hand and they are rightfully proud of what they are doing and have done. Make no mistake, this is a hand up and not a handout.
At our shop we are collecting coin and can to help out, it’s still the season for giving and being in need has no cut off time period. It’s a cold world and we’re all in it together …. or else we’re in it by ourselves.
When we went there, we were amazed at the size and construction and workmanship that is available to those in need. There are numerous organizations that are doing whatever they can to help the helpless; do yourself a good turn and find who they are, where they are and what you can do. There’s a real need here and a chance that everyone that can help should not pass up.
The next time someone asks for that spare change, remember 1802 Tulane… send them there.
Tell you what. If everyone living in New Orleans would give twenty five cents a week, that’s one dollar a month, twelve dollars a year…. times what? Two Hundred thousand people back? Once again, do the math. Or how about a can of food for the bags of groceries that they give to people that have a roof and not much else.
A quarter a week. Sister Beth Driscoll: Lantern Light / St Josephs Rebuild Center 1802 Tulane Ave. NOLA 70112 or even at our shop, we’ll be glad to pass it on.
As someone once sang, back in the day: “There’s a chance peace will come in our time--- please buy one.”

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