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City Officials Launch Citywide Vaccine Waitlist

The New Orleans Health Department (NOHD), New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and the Orleans Parish Communication District recently announced the launch of the Citywide Vaccine Waitlist.

New Orleans residents 65 years of age and older (or otherwise eligible in the current phase) who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine should call 3-1-1 (504-658-2299) or go to ready.nola.gov/getvaccine to register for the Citywide Vaccine Waitlist.  

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact, highlighting longstanding inequities in the health of many groups in our community,” says City a health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno. “Providing the COVID-19 vaccine to seniors of color, low-income seniors, and those with functional and access needs continues to be a top priority for Mayor Cantrell and the New Orleans Health Department. This waitlist will help us ensure that New Orleans’ most vulnerable residents have access to the vaccine.”

When appointments become available each week from the New Orleans Health Department and other participating providers, members of the waitlist will be contacted. Vaccine locations will vary each week, so residents will need to be able to arrange their own transportation or schedule RTA paratransit by calling 504-827-7433. The second dose appointment will be scheduled upon receipt of first dose.  

At present, the waitlist is designed only for residents currently eligible to receive vaccine in Phases 1A and 1B, Tier 1; however, as additional eligibility details are finalized by the Louisiana Department of Health for upcoming phases, the waitlist will be expanded accordingly. 

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine effort in New Orleans, visit ready.nola.gov/vaccine.

City is Accepting Applications for Rental Assistance Program

The Mayor’s Office recently announced an expansion of its rental assistance program with the recent allocation of $11.6 million in federal funds. The City is expecting an additional $14 million from the state of Louisiana for rental assistance.

This program will begin taking applications on Monday, Feb. 15 through its NOLA Ready website — https://ready.nola.gov — as well as in person. People can also call (504) 658-4200 to apply and for any questions. And applications will be accepted until the funding is depleted.

The City is also partnering with the courts to ensure any household facing imminent eviction for nonpayment of rent is immediately connected to rental assistance resources.

In order to qualify for the program, applicants must earn 60 percent or below of the area median income (AMI)

Assistance can cover up to 12 months of back rent and three months of future rent payments under limited circumstances. Landlords that accept these funds will not be able to evict tenants for non-payment of rent for 90 days or for up to 180 days without good cause. Good cause means something the tenant did or failed to do, including nonpayment of rent (should the moratorium expire), other lease violations, criminal activity, property damage, and activity that threatens the health, safety, or peaceful possession of others.

In almost all circumstances, the payment will go directly to landlords. Federal rules provide that if a landlord chooses to refuse to participate in the program, a renter can still apply, however.

Landlords can also apply directly to the program. And there is nothing barring undocumented people from qualifying for assistance as well.

Landlords who have missed a payment or are concerned about foreclosure should contact HUD certified housing counseling by dialing (800) 569-4287 and may apply for assistance through the Small Landlord Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

City Breaks Ground on $5.27 Million Expansion of Low Barrier Homeless Shelter

Earlier this month, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city officials broke ground on the $5.27 million expansion of the Low Barrier Shelter that opened in Fall 2018. The project is expected to be completed this summer.

“This expansion of the Low Barrier Shelter will increase capacity by 200 percent,” Mayor Cantrell said. “It will also provide more space to facilitate case management, which is key to helping people down the path toward housing. This work is also the very definition of keeping the work moving forward, not just when it comes to caring for our most vulnerable residents in a pandemic, but continuing to improve our infrastructure during a pandemic, and keeping our economy moving forward as well.”

The Low Barrier Shelter is located in portions of the second and third floors of the old VA Hospital. The project will expand available beds from 100 to 346 beds and expand available services. Expansion in square footage is approximately 30,000 square feet. The $5.277 million budget includes $5 million from Community Development Block Grant funds and $277,000 from bonds.

“The expansion of the low barrier shelter will provide an opportunity to improve the quality of life for our homeless population. The project includes converting the existing warming kitchen into a full-service commercial kitchen, increasing shower and laundry facilities and providing additional office space for even more support services. We acknowledge the creative partnership with Mathis Brierre Architects and Colmex Construction and look forward to completing this important project,” said Vincent A. Smith, Director, Capital Projects Administration.

The shelter now includes 100 beds and a living and community space, as well as restrooms, showers, kitchen, laundry area, and office space for the shelter operator and service providers. It also has accommodations for special needs clients. Operated by the Start Corporation, the Low Barrier Shelter has been open and working with serving the homeless in New Orleans since August 2018.

The expansion will include upgrades to the existing warming kitchen into a full, commercial kitchen, expansion of existing laundry services, additional restroom and shower facilities, addition of a staff break room and locker room, and additional office spaces. Third floor renovations include the addition of a multi-bed sleep area, new shower and restroom facilities, additional staff work areas, and additional storage space.

“I am elated to see this expansion taking place. This pandemic has shown that many of us are really not that far removed from the crisis of homelessness. Homelessness is not a crime and too often results from circumstances far out of the control of the individuals impacted. We are intentional in our commitment to meet our people wear they live even if they live on the street. The additional bed space and expanded support services to the low barrier shelter will help our citizens better cope with and overcome this crisis situation of homelessness,” said Jay H. Banks, City Councilmember, District B.

The City also has provided funding for the relocation of Ozanam Inn to Poydras Street. Both facilities will be completed in the Summer 2021.

“We’re grateful to the City of New Orleans for its ongoing commitment to eradicate homelessness. The expansion of the low barrier shelter, coupled with Ozanam Inn’s future new facility, will allow all partners to provide vital and necessary services to a larger population in need. Now, more than ever, this support for our community is crucial,” said Clarence Adams, CEO, Ozanam Inn.

New Exhibit Showcasing African-American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras Runs Feb. 13 through Nov. 28

The Louisiana State Museum, working in collaboration with the renowned Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris, recently announced the opening of a new exhibition, Mystery in Motion: African American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras. This new exhibition inside the Presbytère on Jackson Square examines the direct influence of multicultural spirituality within the carnival traditions of Black New Orleanians.

The exhibit will be on display in time for the Mardi Gras weekend, from Feb. 13, through Nov. 28, and will serve as the centerpiece of the museum’s planned programming to celebrate the 2021 carnival season.

“Mystery in Motion is a groundbreaking exhibition highlighting the vibrant carnival traditions of the Black community in New Orleans and it offers an excellent way to celebrate Mardi Gras safely during this current pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

Mystery in Motion guest curators Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D., and Ron Bechet of Xavier University of Louisiana explore spirituality in Mardi Gras through the presentation of more than two dozen Black masking Indian suits, carnival costumes, and masking objects produced in New Orleans, juxtaposed with extraordinary African artifacts that are representative of the cultures, religions, and artistry that influenced their creation. These exceptional African objects will be on loan from the collections of the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac and Southern University at New Orleans.

“There is so much happening on Mardi Gras day, it is impossible to take in all the sights, sounds, and experiences. The intent of the exhibition is to offer an opportunity to contemplate the spiritual dimensions of African American Mardi Gras masking that are hidden in plain view,” said Vaz-Deville.

“Some mysteries can be solved. The Mystery in Motion exhibition reveals to wider audiences the depth of meaning and sources of inspiration for some extraordinary carnival practices,” added Ron Bechet, Victor H. Labat Professor of Art at Xavier University.

After the exhibition’s run at the Presbytère, it will become part of a larger exhibition, Les Black Indians de la Nouvelle-Orléans, at the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, tentatively scheduled for 2022.

Additionally, several virtual events will be held in conjunction with the exhibition that are free and open to the public. On Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m., Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D., will be part of a virtual conversation about the exhibition, examining how African, Islamic, Native American, and European belief systems have fused to create a set of cultural and artistic practices that are unique to New Orleans and Carnival. Registration is requiredfor the event as part of the Tulane Alumni Association’s “Mardi Gras Goes Virtual” series.

Every Wednesday, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on From Feb 24 through Mar. 31, teaching artist Ausettua AmorAmenkum will lead a dance course called African Dance in New Orleans: Online Course at the Louisiana State Museum. The six-week course will explore African traditions and influences on New Orleans culture and dance. To register visit the course’s event page.

On Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., you can join A Virtual Evening with the Curators: Mystery in Motion: African American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras via Zoom as the guest curators share highlights from the exhibition and insights into the curatorial process with Louisiana State Museum historian Karen Leathem. Registration is available on the event page.

For more information on Mystery in Motion: African American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras or guest curators Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D., and Ron Bechet, visit the Louisiana State Museum’s exhibit webpage.