The main programs from UNITY are offered by referrals, and they focus on both eviction and foreclosure prevention, and the non-profit coordinates resources in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. Counselors from the agency work with both tenants and homeowners in an effort to find some type of solution to a crisis, and ideally prevent homelessness. However, if someone has no other options available to them, then there are referrals to transitional housing programs in Louisiana as well as short term shelters from the HousingLink service.
There are dozens of requests for information on housing programs or inquires for free counseling each and ever year. UNITY will try to keep up with this demand, but resources from agencies in New Orleans area are limited. There are different ways to request help from the non-profit, and they include using a drop-in center, which provides crisis intervention and counseling, or try the telephone hotline. In either case staff and counselors will do their best to provide information and respond to as many consumer questions as possible on housing issues.
Landlord and tenant, or homeowners and lender, mediation is offered by some partner groups. This will touch upon counseling, and if when and needed, court advocacy. The staff of UNITY is available to conduct workshops with all parties involved in the process on a variety of housing topics including, tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities, modifying a home mortgage, entering into payments plans, or looking for an affordable apartment.
UNITY is involved in the coordination of private and government Homeless Prevention Services. There are assistance programs directed at helping low income tenants to remain in their apartments or homes. This goal is met through landlord/tenant mediation referenced above, a combination of intensive counseling, court advocacy and in some situations the use of emergency financial assistance or cash grants.
They do not offer financial aid themselves, but instead have referrals. One part of this may include emergency funds for back rent or other housing costs, such as utility bills if that is the potential cause of homelessness. This type of aid is very limited, comes with restrictions, and often also depends on federal government or state of Louisiana grants. This means that funding levels change widely, and many people will be turned down.
Information and referrals are provided by UNITY as well, and this is in fact a key service administered. The staff are strongly involved in the coordination of homeless prevention services with other non-profit as well as charity organizations in Orleans and Jefferson Parish to provide assistance and support. This is focused on income qualified families who are at risk of foreclosure or eviction who have already been displaced.
Much of this information can be provided over the phone. The non-profit receives calls from people worried about evictions or maybe looking for low cost apartments in New Orleans. Other more common requests include advice on getting security deposits back from landlords or dealing with code violations in their buildings.
There of course are calls from homeowners looking for assistance with mortgage problems and many other housing concerns. Resources, such as HUD counseling, can be coordinated by UNITY in these cases as well. People will be directed to counselors or resources as appropriate.
With a growing number of households in Louisiana paying over 40% of their income for rent or a mortgage, more people are struggling each month. To make matters even more challenging, many of the severely rent burdened are the working poor whom transitioned from public aid into jobs that are often part-time. When a personal or economic crisis is faced by residents, they often call upon UNITY as the staff will try to bring the families to the brink of homelessness. For more information, dial 1-888-899-4589 for referrals.
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