WWAV’s Holiday Program Highlights Growing Community Needs

This past holiday season WWAV continued our twenty-year tradition of providing holiday gifts and dinners for residents in our community. In the process of meeting with families over the holidays, we heard stories that highlighted so many of the issues we tackle in our advocacy – the issues of food access, transportation access, and the lack of health and supportive services for low-income communities of color.

christmas families imageWe met a single mother with five children in New Orleans East who had just lost a baby the week before Christmas. She recently took in her 11-year-old brother because her mother cannot care for him at this time.

We met a young married couple in New Orleans East. They daily face transportation issues and food access. The mother has to shop for food at the nearby Walgreens because she doesn’t have a car to get to a grocery store.

We met a formerly-incarcerated elderly woman, whose status means she regularly faces housing discrimination, employment issues, and lack of access to health services.

We met a mother of two working full-time, with most of her money going to pay for rent. She lives in New Orleans East now because it’s more affordable than many other neighborhoods in New Orleans, but she now has trouble accessing her job and services in downtown New Orleans.

We met a father struggling to support two young daughters. He’s a college student working part-time at a local grocery store, and his wife is incarcerated.

We collected monetary, food, and gift donations from our supporters and were able to provide holiday gifts and dinner to these families and many more families whose journeys illustrate the continuing and growing needs in our community.

We heard how stigma and the long-arm of incarceration continue to impact people’s lives, creating barriers to services and jobs. We heard how trauma impacts day-to-day life, going untreated because of the lack of mental health care services. Moreover, we learned how much of the city’s new development does not benefit those who need it the most – as New Orleans gentrifies, WWAV is finding more and more of our families pushed out of the city center where they were once close to jobs, social services, community support networks, and public transportation. They are forced farther out into more affordable areas like New Orleans East, large parts of which have remained underdeveloped since Hurricane Katrina. Farther away from grocery stories, health services, and public transportation, families are facing more and more barriers to survival.

We heard how the “new” New Orleans remains a myth to many of our families, who have been left out of the growth and development so often touted in local media. New Orleans is a city where inequality is growing, and our work with families like the ones above is just one way we will continue to document the voices and needs of the most marginalized in our community.

 

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