Funds collected through this effort will go to social service providers that address homelessness, poverty, mental health and substance abuse.
Advertisements on billboards, bus sides, and shelters will inform passers-by of a secure online and mobile giving system designed to be an easy, more effective alternative to handing a dollar to a person on a street corner. The ads depict an individual holding a sign that encourages the public to text WAY to 27722 to help end homelessness.
"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. "For the first time, 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."
The campaign aims to take a sympathetic approach to the growing number of panhandlers in New Orleans with the understanding that not all panhandlers 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.
"It is important for the public to know that many people who beg in the streets are not homeless, that they may suffer from addiction, and that giving them money directly could actually be counterproductive," said Martha Kegel, Executive Director of UNITY. "UNITY encourages giving to organizations that take strategic, evidence-based approaches to reducing poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction and unemployment. Make Change NOLA supports organizations with a strong track record of service in the community."
"The DDD is proud to be part of this campaign. Throughout the years we have partnered with City agencies and organizations 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.
Make Change NOLA was spearheaded originally by Head and Cantrell in response to the growing number of panhandlers in New Orleans. To support the launch of the public awareness campaign, they each contributed portions of their Harrah's New Orleans Community Support Grant funds and raised additional dollars from other businesses and foundations to ensure the launch would be seen city-wide.
Mayor-Elect Cantrell continued, "We know that a portion of our city's homeless population is reflective of the ongoing affordable housing crisis in New Orleans. The issues facing residents without permanent shelter are complex and must be addressed on multiple fronts using all of the tools in the toolbox. The new low-barrier shelter, opening soon at the site of the former VA hospital, is one of those tools and the Make Change NOLA program is another tool. I am pleased to have worked alongside Council Member Stacy Head, United Way and the Downtown Development District to make this program a reality. Today, we begin the process of ensuring that homeless residents receive a hand-up, not simply a hand-out."
Councilmember Stacy Head said, "What began as a primarily downtown-specific issue has now spread to every part of the city. We're generous here in New Orleans; we are quick to lend a hand or a dollar to someone who needs it. This campaign will assure donors that their contributions will go to the truly homeless men, women, and children in New Orleans and help move them to self-sufficiency."
The initiative's progress will be trackable online at MakeChangeNOLA.org. The public can view the number of donations made, along with the annual allocations to the four support agencies. To contribute to Make Change NOLA, text WAY to 27722. Each text donates $10, through the giver's cell phone bill, to the initiative.Contributions can also be made online at MakeChangeNOLA.org.