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Post-Katrina Lessons in Building a Stronger Community: Kenneth Schwartz

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kale at grow dat1.jpg

In this file photo from April 2015, wildflowers edge one of the plots growing kale at the Grow Dat Youth Farm. (Judy Walker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Contributing Op-Ed columnistBy Contributing Op-Ed columnist 
on May 15, 2015 at 11:39 AM
 
 
 
   
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Grow Dat Youth Farm's mission is to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food. Tulane City Center students designed and constructed an award-winning eco campus housing a teaching kitchen, offices, composting toilets, produce storage and farm support spaces. In 2014, the program's teenagers, from six partner schools across New Orleans, grew 12,000 pounds of food: 60 percent was sold and 40 percent shared through donation, barter or subsidized sale.
 
From its roots as the St. Bernard Market, Circle Food Store had served as a community hub for generations before photographs of the flooded store became iconic visuals of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches. Tulane City Center worked with business owner Dwayne Boudreaux to develop the tools to help him advocate for renewed investment in his historic grocery. This $8 million renovation restored a community icon and brings food access back to the 7th Ward.
 
Our students and faculty helped to launch this project at an early stage when few people held out hope for this important institution's revival. Tulane University alumnus John Williams served as the lead architect in realizing Mr. Boudreaux's vision.
 
Through the Tulane City Center, the Tulane School of Architecture's community design center, students and faculty have advanced the design and construction of more than 80 projects across New Orleans. Each project begins as a proposal from a nonprofit organization and is developed in partnership with the organization's constituents. Through our partners, these projects contribute to healing, sheltering and serving our citizens. There is an amazing spirit of collaboration and commitment at work.
 
TCC's work addresses the key issues in New Orleans: expanding access to neighborhood resources, improving urban systems, celebrating our cultural heritage and promoting healthy communities. Our design work, whether a visual narrative or a built structure, provides a targeted contribution to advancing the ongoing efforts of our partner organizations. Grow Dat Youth Farm and Circle Foods are two projects completed in 2012 with different approaches to addressing food access in the city. In both instances, the School of Architecture's contribution at a key early moment leveraged much larger results through collaboration.
 
The design support from TCC has spurred additional reinvestment in the city as well:
 
Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative: TCC's 2011 research and design study helped the Jane Place initiative pursue partnerships in support of its 2739 Palmyra Project, a $1.2 million redevelopment that will provide affordable housing and bring a new model for sustainable communities to Mid-City. The project broke ground this April.
 
New Orleans Redevelopment Authority's Facade RENEW: Through NORA's support, TCC is providing free design services to business and property owners applying to NORA's Facade RENEW program, which represents $1 million of investment in revitalizing storefronts in four targeted historic commercial corridors across the city.  
 
The students, faculty and staff of the School of Architecture, supported by a courageous and progressive university administration, have worked toward recovery and revitalization since returning to campus after Katrina in January 2006. We have been in good company; many schools of architecture came to New Orleans and performed heroic work in the first few years after the disaster. Many were motivated by the dire situation and were trying to fill the vacuum produced by government's abject failure at every level to address fundamental needs of the citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast before and after the catastrophe.
 
To this day, Tulane architecture students continue to address the issues facing New Orleans while striving for aspirations of beauty, sustainability and social justice. It is heartening to see the students embrace the lessons of a strong architectural education in the unique context of their city. Through applied research and action, they are enhancing the positive impact of design through engagement. They also are deepening their understanding that what is built must be informed by tangible human experience.
 
Our school is distinctive in the way we have embraced the creative potential of rebuilding New Orleans. Community engagement has become fundamentally ingrained in our school, as key aspects of academic rigor and developing professional ethics. Our students learn that good designers are good citizens. They recognize the relevance of connecting their skills with pressing community and global issues. This is "social innovation" at its very best, and I am proud of the constructive legacy they have created through their individual and collective efforts.
 
We are not only collaborating in building community, the Tulane School of Architecture is educating a new model of engaged professional: humble, inclusive, creative, collaborative, empathetic and dedicated to the idea that design matters in the many challenges faced by New Orleans and our nation.
 
Kenneth Schwartz is Favrot professor and dean of Tulane University School of Architecture.

By Project for Public Spaces on Mar 12, 2015

Street life in New Orleans, one of the cities receiving free technical assistance from Livability Solutions | Photo by PPS

Project for Public Spaces and our partners at Livability Solutions are pleased to announce the nine communities selected to receive free technical assistance in 2015, thanks to a grant to Project for Public Spaces from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities under their Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. Each recipient will receive a one- or two-day workshop with one of our Livability Solutions partners to tackle a particular sustainable communities challenge or opportunity in their community.

NEW ORLEANS - April 21, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — First Lady Michelle Obama joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu and about 200 leaders from across government, industry and the non-profit sector to celebrate progress across the country on the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and to recognize New Orleans for becoming the first major city in America to end Veteran homelessness. The event also marked the fourth anniversary of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative aimed to increase support and opportunities for Veterans.

“It is an honor to host First Lady Michelle Obama today to discuss the importance of ending Veteran homelessness,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “In January, New Orleans became the first major city to answer the President and First Lady’s call to end Veteran homelessness, a year earlier than the federal goal. Right now, hundreds of leaders across the nation are taking on the Mayors Challenge, and I am proud that New Orleans is a trailblazer on this important and challenging issue. We know the work of ending Veteran homelessness is never really done. That’s why we created a new and sustainable rapid response model that combines all available local, state, and federal resources with the work of our local active duty and former military personnel – utilizing Veterans to help Veterans. This model is being replicated nationwide so that we can end Veteran homelessness in America once and for all.”

The First Lady and Mayor Landrieu were joined on stage by Dylan Tete, an Iraq war Veteran and local homeless Veteran advocate. During the event, the First Lady also announced new resources aimed at assisting communities that have signed on to the Mayors Challenge. She also announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were making available nearly $65 million to help more than 9,300 homeless Veterans find a permanent place to call home. The rental assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.

In June 2014, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady launched the Mayors Challenge and New Orleans was among the first cities to sign up. On July 4, 2014, Mayor Landrieu accepted the Mayors Challenge at an event at The National World War II Museum announcing New Orleans’ goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2014, a year ahead of the federal goal. On January 7, 2015, Mayor Landrieu announced New Orleans’ success as the first major city to meet the challenge and end Veteran homelessness. Thus far, 432 mayors, seven governors, and 131 other local officials have committed to ending Veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of this 2015.

FULFILLING THE MAYORS CHALLENGE

The City of New Orleans defines ending Veteran homelessness as ensuring every homeless Veteran who can be located is placed in permanent housing or in temporary housing with an identified permanent housing placement.

To fulfill the Mayors Challenge, the City partnered with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, UNITY of Greater New Orleans, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), the State Office of Community Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness (NOICH). The coalition implemented a local strategy to ensure every Veteran in New Orleans had access to permanent housing and the supportive services they need to sustain their housing status and stay off the street.

As part of the Mayors Challenge, HANO recruited landlords to provide apartments for homeless Veterans. This pipeline, coupled with UNITY HousingLink  quickly connected willing landlords to homeless Veterans in need of housing. Federal resources, including Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), Continuum of Care Permanent Supportive Housing (CoC PSH), Rapid Rehousing (RR), and Housing Choice vouchers, were brought together to ensure the initiative’s sustainability.

To enhance ongoing outreach on the streets and connect Veterans with service providers, the City coordinated with local active duty military and Veterans groups through the Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee. Over several months, about 150 local active duty military and Veterans conducted five Veteran homeless outreach nights trying to locate homeless Veterans and get them off the streets. In addition, these volunteers helped move formerly homeless Veterans into their new homes. This extensive outreach effort created important connections between homeless Veterans and their fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms.

According to the HUD 2014 Homeless Point in Time Survey conducted by UNITY of Greater New Orleans, 193 individuals were counted to be homeless Veterans in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. As a part of the Mayors Challenge, Mayor Landrieu put together a coalition of nonprofits, homeless service providers, U.S. service members and Veterans, and federal, state, and local agencies – a coalition that permanently housed 227 homeless Veterans in New Orleans. Since January’s announcement of fulfilling the Mayors Challenge, New Orleans has housed an additional 42 veterans.

COMMITMENT TO ENDING HOMELESSNESS

In 2011, the City announced a Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness  and created the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness to oversee its implementation. As part of its comprehensive plan to end homelessness, the City has launched a series of initiatives and has pledged to work with 63 partner agencies and service providers that make up the Continuum of Care and to collaborate with HUD, VA and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).
In 2013, New Orleans reached another milestone when the Community Resource and Referral Center opened in the local VA hospital. The Community Resource and Referral Center serves as a day shelter for the homeless and connects homeless Veterans to case managers and services. The center houses multiple service providers to foster synergy, and it is the first and only resource and referral center in the nation that provides services to Veterans as well as non-veterans.

The City also committed HOME funds in 2013 to pay for rental assistance and develop permanent supportive housing for persons who are homeless, and did so in collaboration with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, VA, Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the Downtown Development District. HUD has selected this initiative as one of four National Best Practices Models for ending homelessness.

Before accepting the Mayors Challenge, the City of New Orleans had already achieved outstanding results on the local level with Veterans’ homelessness, which had dropped 66 percent from 2012 to 2014. In November 2014, the National Alliance to End Homelessness recognized New Orleans for its efforts in helping this vulnerable community as part of its Never Another Homeless Veteran initiative. These results are significant, particularly in a community where Veteran homelessness skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina.

HOW THE PUBLIC CAN HELP

The public can help the city’s Veterans community by donating gently used furniture, dishes, towels and bed linens to the UNITY warehouse. Those interested in supporting ongoing efforts to end chronic homelessness in New Orleans may contact UNITY of Greater New Orleans at (504) 821-4496 or by visiting unitygno.org .

Click here to learn more about resources available for local Veterans experiencing homelessness 

- See more at: http://louisiana.realestaterama.com/2015/04/21/first-lady-michelle-obama-joins-mayor-landrieu-to-celebrate-progress-on-ending-veteran-homelessness-ID0407.html#sthash.36j9xqpQ.dpuf

By Richard Rainey, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

on April 21, 2015 at 11:30 AM, updated April 21, 2015 at 3:21 PM

 

A tall man, Jim Singleton wanted a tall home. Preferably a two-story one with a first-floor ceiling high enough to accommodate his 6-foot, 7-inch frame. 

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 had just passed Congress. It gave him, a black man, the legal buttress to house-hunt wherever he so chose. 

He took that freedom to heart, scouring New Orleans for a house big enough. After a while his real estate agent, Rose, called. She had found a gem -- a broad, stuccoed, Craftsman-style perched in the middle of a block on General Taylor Street in the heart of Broadmoor

The owner had bought a new house elsewhere and needed to sell quickly. Singleton jumped at the chance and got a fair deal, he said. But as he climbed the front steps for the first time after signing the paperwork, he didn't quite expect what greeted him at the top. From an adjacent second-story porch, his white neighbor made clear the shortcomings of Singleton's newly acquired right to buy any house he could afford.

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Posted: 04/20/2015 1:41 pm EDT Updated: 04/20/2015 1:59 pm EDT

Michael Bloomberg wants America to have smarter, problem-solving cities, and he's banking on data to make it happen.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the launch of a $42 million initiative on Monday that will help 100 mid-sized U.S. cities better utilize data to serve their communities. The What Works Cities program partners with a handful of supportive organizations -- such as Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation -- to help local governments manage and analyze data to serve residents.

The initiative -- which is now accepting applications from cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million -- will create open data programs that boost government transparency, help cities incorporate data into policy decision-making and fund efforts that best deliver positive results for citizens, among other functions, according to a press release from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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