Mayor Cantrell Celebrates work of Make Change NOLA at First Anniversary of Low Barrier Shelter

The campaign aims to provide direct support to New Orleans’ homeless population through a safe mobile giving platform

NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans, in collaboration with the Downtown Development District (DDD), the United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) and UNITY of Greater New Orleans, is excited to support the work of Make Change NOLA: A Better Way to Give to combine a public awareness campaign with mobile giving to harness the generosity of New Orleanians and visitors to support organizations working to combat homelessness and poverty.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who worked on the initiative while serving on the New Orleans City Council, highlighted the drive to address these crucial issues while also noting the first anniversary of the Low Barrier Shelter.

"With Make Change NOLA and the Low Barrier Shelter, we are showing what it is like to meet our most vulnerable residents where they are while making it simpler and easier for all of our residents to support them even with the smallest of donations," said Mayor Cantrell.

The Low Barrier Shelter served 375 clients in its first year -- 207 from referrals and 101 walk-ins, with 37 percent of them transitioned into housing. There is also anecdotal success; a 48-year-old female with a history of psychiatric symptoms and substance use was referred to the shelter at the beginning of October 2018, and with the assistance of staff at the Shelter, she successfully transitioned into housing, thanking staff for never giving up on her.

Make Change NOLA will provide another tool in the toolkit to help residents such as these as well as others in serious need of a range of services.

“The New Orleans Health Department is proud to work with partners across the City to address homelessness in its many forms,” said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno. “While there is no quick solution, Make Change NOLA allows residents to give compassionately and in the moment to organizations with proven track records of helping individuals secure permanent housing and much needed services. A $5 donation at a stoplight meets our most vulnerable citizens where they are and has the power to help lift them into stability and better health.

"It's as easy as contributing to this effort by texting “WAY” to 20222," Dr. Avegno said.

“The DDD is proud to partner with the City of New Orleans on Make Change NOLA. Throughout the years we have partnered with City agencies and nonprofits to address homelessness, and this is yet another valuable tool in that effort,” said Kurt Weigle, DDD President and CEO. “It is essential that in eradicating homelessness, we must begin by addressing underlying factors such as availability of housing, addiction and mental health. The four organizations who will be the beneficiaries of Make Change NOLA have proven to be some of the most effective agencies in our city at addressing these issues. We hope that this campaign will help them to serve even more people than they do today.”

"A gift to Make Change NOLA will support United Way’s holistic approach to ending poverty and make a measurable difference in the lives of New Orleanians without a place to call home,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “Locals and tourists alike will have an easy, safe option to give more than a single cash offering at an intersection — they can make a difference in lives across the city forever through reputable social service providers."

Funds collected through this effort will go to social service providers that address homelessness, poverty, mental health and substance abuse. Anyone interested in contributing to this effort is encouraged to text “WAY” to 20222. Each text donates $5, through the giver’s cell phone bill, to the initiative. Contributions can also be made online at by clicking on the “Donate” portal. (NOTE: By clicking this link, you will leave the site and be redirected to

The campaign aims to take a sympathetic approach to the growing number of residents who “panhandle” for change in New Orleans with the understanding that not all people who panhandle are homeless and not all homeless individuals are panhandlers. According to UNITY’s most recent data, some 1,200 individuals in Orleans and Jefferson parishes are homeless and in need of additional resources to secure and maintain safe, affordable housing.

United Way will distribute annually funds collected through Make Change NOLA to four local nonprofit organizations focused on reducing homelessness and treating substance use disorders and mental illness: Bridge House/Grace House, Odyssey House Louisiana, NAMI New Orleans and Travelers Aid Society of Greater New Orleans.

A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. User must be age 18 or older or have parental permission to participate. By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. Service is available on most carriers. Message and data rates may apply. Donations are collected for the benefit of United Way of Southeast Louisiana by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

Mayor Cantrell worked on the initiative as City Councilmember for District B along with fellow Councilmember Stacy Head, who left the Council in 2017.


About United Way of Southeast Louisiana

For more than 90 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana 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 Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA. 


About Downtown Development District
The Downtown Development District was created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1974 as the nation's first assessment-based business improvement district (BID) to provide enhanced services in economic development, cleaning and safety.

About UNITY of Greater New Orleans
UNITY of Greater New Orleans is a nonprofit organization that coordinates a network of 60 agencies providing housing and services to the homeless and leads initiatives to reduce homelessness.