"It's harder than ever before for people to afford their basic needs"
NEW ORLEANS (11/12/2020) — A leading group of New Orleans area nonprofits and philanthropists – including United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA), the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), the Methodist Health System Foundation, Inc. (MHSF), the Goldring Family Foundation and Pres Kabacoff – Thursday 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 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."
Wendy M. Beron, MHSF President, added, "Methodist Health System Foundation has a history of supporting programs addressing both food and housing access in our community and we recognize the increased needs brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are proud to add $150,000 of additional support to our school and healthcare partner work in these areas through this important community funding collaborative."
To further complicate the matter, in a recent New Orleans Advocate article, Tulane University sociologist Andrea Boyles indicated the broader community's well-being could be at stake as the ongoing lack of access to basic needs likely coordinates to the uptick in crimes of desperation New Orleans is experiencing.
"Food and housing are the most basic of human needs, and COVID-19 has left families struggling to maintain both," said Pres Kabacoff, HRI Properties Executive Chairman of the Board. "My hope is that this effort will inspire businesses and individuals to participate, extending to crowdfunding so the entire community can join us and help ensure our fellow citizens have a roof over their head and food on the table until they get back on their feet."
Individuals in need of housing or food assistance can visit UnitedWaySELA.org/HFIC or call 211 to learn more.
About United Way of Southeast Louisiana
For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit UnitedWaySELA.org. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.
About the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF)
With roots extending over 90 years, the Greater New Orleans Foundation has been connecting generous people to the causes that spark their passion. As one of the most trusted philanthropic organizations in the region, we work every day to drive positive impact through philanthropy, leadership, and action in our thirteen-parish region. In addition to grantmaking, we convene people, resources, and ideas to create intelligent strategies and solutions to meet our region's greatest challenges. We are proud to serve as a vocal civic leader with our partners to ensure a vibrant, sustainable, and just region for all. Learn more at www.gnof.org.
About Methodist Health System Foundation (MHSF)
Methodist Health System Foundation is a health legacy foundation that strives to improve the quality of life of our community through health-related partnerships. Through a strategic grantmaking program, MHSF supports organizations that provide healthcare and health programs throughout our community. MHSF also operates School Based Health Centers. Our target geographic area includes New Orleans East, Gentilly and St. Bernard which was the primary market served by Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital for over 35 years. MHSF has invested over $1,000,000 in support of programs designed to assist with food insecurity. Learn more at www.mhsfi.org.