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Fain Winner: New Orleans Women's Shelter

New Orleans Women’s Shelter

Feb. 20, 2009

Transitional housing shelter for homeless women and mothers with young children which began in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

 

Community Contact Information:

Congregation Gates of Prayer

Metairie, LA

www.gatesofprayer.org

 

Goals:

  • Provide a safe shelter environment to homeless women, mothers and children
  • Support homeless women in transitioning to a safe and stable lifestyle
  • Promote independence and self sufficiency for homeless women

 

Overview:

The New Orleans Women’s Shelter is a grassroots volunteer operation that began in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to provide transitional housing for homeless women and mothers with young children. In June 2007, the synagogue became the shelter’s fiscal sponsor. The congregation’s efforts are motivated by two Jewish values: ending the intergenerational cycle of poverty and helping women gain self-sufficiency.

Katrina exposed to the nation that poverty has always been an intractable part of New Orleans' community. The women and children the shelter serves are no strangers to the cruel results of limited opportunity and poor choices. Compounding their struggle is the unique condition of post-Katrina New Orleans, in which housing prices have skyrocketed, FEMA benefits have been depleted, the number of living wage job opportunities have decreased and incidence of domestic violence and alcohol/drug abuse have increased. All of this has occurred against the backdrop of a severely curtailed medical and social-service infrastructure to provide needed assistance.

 

Preparation:

Congregants formed the New Orleans Women's Shelter LLC as an interim vehicle, while the congregation agreed to become the fiscal sponsor until the shelter could obtain 501(c)3 status. The Tikkun Olam Committee agreed to coordinate congregational volunteer assistance to the shelter. A Tikkun Olam column in the monthly bulletin communicated needs to the Congregation.

 

Project Implementation:

  • Congregants supported the shelter individually and through small groups:
  • Congregants supported the project by buying designated SCRIP for the shelter as well as through direct donations, including the Confirmation Class’ gift, which is usually dedicated for the congregation;
  • Congregants provided administrative support in maintaining mailing list, sending acknowledgements, and initiating a website, and offered professional legal and medical services;
  • Brotherhood members gathered monthly to cook and deliver meals for the shelter, and organized Facility Maintenance Days, helping out with painting, landscaping, and other handyman jobs;
  • The youth group collected personal items for the shelter at the NFTY Regional Conclave;
  • Religious school students provided supplies for a holiday party, art projects and gifts;
  • The sisterhood coordinated clothing collection and play/learning resources;
  • Nursery School parents donated baby supplies.

 

Results:

The womens’ shelter is one of the few resources which seek to change the trajectory of the clients' lives. With assistance in creating a realistic plan for independence and stable living as well as provision of education and support to help chart a new course for themselves and their children, over 80 women have moved on to homes of their own, employment in a living wage job and gained a new sense of self respect. The project has provided members of the congregation, located in a suburb, with an awareness of the needs of people in the inner city . Furthermore, the relationship with the shelter has been an avenue for congregants to pursue the mission of tikkun olam: perfecting God's world through the pursuit of justice, and improved understanding between our neighbors and ourselves.

This program received a Fain Award in 2009.