For Immediate Release:
Grace at the Greenlight sends 1,300th person home
Reuniting homeless people with their families through the “I’m Going Home” program.
December 15, 2017: New Orleans, LA. Grace at the Greenlight is sending its 1,300th person home on Saturday, December 16, transitioning a dad from the streets of New Orleans home to Raleigh, North Carolina.
We will be sending Matthew Benson home to his wife and 4 children just in time for Christmas. Matthew came to New Orleans to help rebuild homes & buildings in New Orleans East. He was staying with the construction crew in a hotel on Bullard Avenue when he lost his job over a dispute in pay. He was kicked out of the hotel and walked from New Orleans East to the Downtown Bus Terminal looking for help. Terminal personnel put Matthew in touch with Grace at the Greenlight.
“We believe that everyone deserves the chance to go home again,” says Sarah Parks, the organization’s Executive Director, “and are thrilled to make Matthew’s Christmas wish come true.”
According to the January 2017 Point in Time Survey, the city’s annual measure of homelessness, there are 469 men, women and children sleeping on the street in New Orleans on any given night. In an April 2017 interview with the New Orleans Advocate, Mayor Mitch Landrieu noted that just “one chronically homeless person on the streets costs taxpayers $20,000 to $50,000 per year in services, including dozens of encounters with EMS, NOPD or jail.” In comparison, Grace’s I’m Going Home project costs an average of $250 per person to reunite the homeless with their loved ones.
In addition to the I’m Going Home project, Grace at the Greenlight has helped to tackle our city’s homelessness problem by serving over 75,000 meals and distributing nearly half-a-million bottles of water since opening in June 2014. “Sometimes, the path home begins with a hot meal in a clean, indoor setting that offers comfort, dignity and respect,” Parks says, “the meals we serve are the heart and soul of our program, building the trust we need to provide the casework that reunites a family.”
The I’m Going Home project is a voluntary family reunification program. Parks, a trained social worker, coordinates communication between the homeless person and a family member who is willing to provide a place to live and the support they need to get back on their feet. She personally meets each homeless person at the transportation hub before their journey to send them off with sandwiches, snacks, drinks, a list of aid agencies available to them in their new city and other resources to help them resettle. The organization provides extensive follow up at one week, one month and 3 months. At the 3-month follow-up, less than 4% of the persons sent home have returned to the streets. “The key,” she says, “is not just that they have somewhere to go, but that they have someone to go home to”.
Sending number 1,300 home is a tremendous milestone for this young organization. Grace at the Greenlight is aiming to send 750 people home each year to loved ones. Similar programs in larger cities, such as Portland, OR and Nashville, TN, reunite an average of 200 families per year. The majority of programs around the country are funded with city and state tax dollars.
The New Orleans program is so successful, in large part, because most of the group’s administrative costs are underwritten by the nonprofit’s founder, local attorney Chris Beary and The Fat Banker’s Social Aid and Pleasure Club, part of the Mardi Gras’ Krewe of Tucks that Beary helped found in 2003. “The daily drive between home and my office downtown provided the inspiration for Grace at the Greenlight” says Mr. Beary, “I’d roll down my window at a traffic light and just talk with (homeless) people”. From a humble approach with words of encouragement to tangible donations, a call to action manifested. “Our city is one of the most wonderful places on earth,” Beary continues, “we have a sense of heart – of family – unlike anywhere else. I’m blessed that my home is here. Grace at the Greenlight exists to share a meal, build community and help others find their way home.”