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Oz Inn receives grant to help homeless residents long term

25th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

One of the city’s havens for the homeless was recently named a recipient of a grant given through the Taylor Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

Ozanam Inn has been awarded a grant (amount undisclosed by request of the donor) that will cover the (salary and benefits) and an addition to the organizations counseling staff.

Though Ozanam Inn (affectionately known as The Oz) has provided homeless men with beds, meals and hot showers for nearly 60 years, that’s not where the aid for clients ends. The organization provides counseling and mentoring regarding what is needed to secure a job and maintain bills.

“Ozanam Inn is a key service provider for people experiencing homelessness in our area. Because of the effectiveness of services provided by Ozanam Inn, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) made the recommendation to the Taylor Foundation who, through their generosity, awarded the grant to Ozanam Inn.” says Program Officer, Richard Martinez of GNOF.

Because of the grant award, The Oz will be able to hire and sustain a second licensed case man­ager/counselor (for two years) which in turn, allows expanded case-management and in house counseling. Additionally, the grant allows for the Senior Case Manager/Counselor to obtain two additional counseling licenses; one in mental health and the other substance abuse counseling. By adding these credentials and licenses, the Senior Case Manager/Counselor will have the ability to perform mental health evaluations in house instead of relying on outside mental health providers which, more often than not, causes extensive delays in diagnoses and treatment plans. Currently, Ozanam Inn has one full-time licensed counselor and a full-time case manager.

“This grant allows the Inn to progress and offer more services to the individuals who come to us in need.” says Executive Director, Deacon Biaggio DiGiovanni. “Adding the second counselor/case manager allows us to work with more clients to move them from homelessness to independence. We are extremely grateful to the Taylor Foundation and the GNOF for this generous grant and the individuals we serve.”

Through a partnership with the Taylor Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Ozanam Inn will have in place two full-time, Master’s level counselors assisting an additional 100 clients a year.

“Once my clients are on their own, I still keep in touch,” says Case Manager Gail Ratleff, who has worked with over 200 clients.

“What good is having permanent housing if you can’t keep it?” she asks. “The last thing we want is for our clients to fail. Success is getting up, going to work, and bringing home the paycheck because that’s what’s needed to stay off the streets. People experiencing homelessness require intensive counseling and support services to regain control of their lives.”

Ratleff works closely with residents to provide the life skills they need to be independent. She trains in stages, giving counseling through the necessary steps of securing a job, creating a savings account, and being responsible for paying rent.

“Self-esteem and anger issues can often lead to or are the cause for addictive tendencies which can lead to homelessness,” says Ozanam Inn Director of Development Reneé Blanche. “The addition of the second licensed case manager allows more planning and staff time, hence the official beginning of anger management classes.”

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the New Orleans metropolitan area has the second-highest homeless rate in the country. On any given night, there are approximately 6,600 people living on the streets. Many end up at Oz for shelter; but with the help of this funding; the non-profit can work further toward its mission of providing more than a bed on a cold night. One of the organizations mottos states: ‘We give a man a fish to eat today, and teach a man to fish for tomorrow.’

This article was originally published in the February 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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