- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A large New Orleans homeless shelter is creating classrooms, improving its dormitories and clinic, and creating new training programs and a day shelter where homeless people can stay when the dorms are closed.

The $7.1 million plans include moving the New Orleans Mission’s main entrance to what’s now the back of the building.

Because neighbors complained about people loitering in front of the building, the main entrance has been moved to the side. It will be moved again to the rear, where five concrete portable buildings will be added - four as day shelter rooms, and the fifth as bathrooms, executive director David Bottner said.

He said, “It will be inside that gated area so people won’t have to feel they have to go underneath the bridge” - actually an interstate underpass where homeless people congregate during the day and where many sleep at night.

The restroom building will solve another problem, he said.

“One of the complaints was there was no place for these men and women to use the restroom, and they would just use the restroom anywhere. We want to eliminate that,” Bottner said.

About 170 people stay at the shelter each night and it provides more than 830 meals a day. The number of beds is down temporarily because of the construction, and will return to 200 when the work is completed, Bottner said.

He said the nondenominational Christian mission has raised nearly $5.5 million of the cost.

The portable buildings were donated to the mission, which just needs to move them and get permits for their use as a quiet room, a game room, an exercise room, a computer lounge and restrooms. That’s expected to take about three months, he said.

Other improvements include an elevator and better accessibility for handicapped people, updating the kitchen, and new laundry services and intake and re-entry offices.

Bottner said the mission received tax credits for restoring the building’s facade to look as it did when it opened in 1908 as a furniture store. Now the interior work begins, he said.

“We kind of look at the outside of somebody. They may look like they have it all together, but inside, they’re kind of falling apart,” he said. “The people we serve have lost the ability to hide the fact that they’re falling apart. We start with the inside, with them.”


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