Shelterforce Housing Authority Eliminates Ban of Ex-Offenders July 5, 2016 by Katy Reckdahl With the approval of new background check procedures, a criminal conviction won’t automatically disqualify a person from receiving public housing or voucher assistance in New Orleans. Calvin “Cosmo” Russell would like to add his adult son to his apartment’s lease. That might be fairly simple if his son hadn’t been arrested three years ago for possession of five dime bags of weed, which ended in a conviction and a short prison term. The arrest also gives Russell a certain urgency. Though his son is 26, Russell believes that he can help him successfully transition from young adulthood into decades of stable living. Russell’s landlord has met Russell’s son and approved the lease change. But because Russell, 48, is disabled from an on-the-job injury, the Housing Authority of New Orleans helps him pay his monthly rent and must authorize any additions to his lease. In the past, Russell would not have asked. “They wouldn’t let you add an ex-con to your Section 8 voucher,” he says. “They’d tell you ‘no’ flat-out.” Even before his son’s arrest, Russell saw HANO’s screening policy as wrong-headed. Several years ago, he joined the grassroots group STAND with Dignity, which has spent four years working with other local advocates to push for a revised criminal records screening policy. The revisions were particularly necessary in high-poverty New Orleans, where nearly 1 in 4 households receives rental assistance, and per-capita incarceration rates have long been the nation’s highest and disproportionately affect the city’s African-American community, says Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “Here in New Orleans, we’re at ground zero of the incarceration epidemic,” she says. “Folks are now agreeing that this level of disenfranchisement for people of color is not beneficial for anyone.”

WWL HANO looking to expand options to people with criminal records March 28, 2016 By Wynton Yates NEW ORLEANS -- The Housing Authority of New Orleans may be changing rules Tuesday to offer housing options to ex-offenders but not without pushback from activist groups. In August, Marlene Kennedy returned to New Orleans after serving five years in prison in St. Gabriel. "My charges were always shoplifting" explained Kennedy. After serving her time now she faces a different problem. "I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight," Kennedy said. With nowhere to call home Kennedy is among the city's population with a criminal record unable to get placed in housing. Last week The Housing Authority of New Orleans loosened policies that were blocking ex-offenders out of public housing.

The New Orleans Advocate At activists’ urging, HANO revises draft policy on accepting applicants with criminal records March 28, 2016 by Jessica Williams The Housing Authority of New Orleans is seeking to extend a policy that would make it easier for people with limited rap sheets to live in public housing. The change would make the criminal background screening procedures HANO is proposing to use for its own units mandatory for the private entities that now manage a majority of the authority’s properties.
If the changed plans are approved by the HANO board, it would be a victory for activists who clamored for that modification last week, saying that an older proposal didn’t do enough to afford ex-offenders an opportunity to be reunited with their families.
  The authority unveiled the new plans on Friday, days after activists staged a protest in front of its Touro Street headquarters and filled every seat in its board meeting room at a boisterous public hearing. The original proposal, touted as a way to end barriers keeping many ex-offenders out of public housing, said HANO would weigh applicants’ convictions against a set of screening criteria for public and Section 8 housing. Depending on the nature and date of those convictions, officials would either admit the applicants or send their cases to a three-member panel for closer review.
Crimes that would warrant the panel’s review include convictions for armed robbery, homicide, kidnapping and several others.

Gambit I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week, March 29, 2016 March 28, 2016 1. Nagin subject of CNBC's AMERICAN GREED The CNBC documentary series American Greed has its season premiere March 31 with an installment titled "Ray Nagin: New Orleans Shakedown." The hourlong report, which begins at 9 p.m., will focus on Nagin's business dealings, including those with now-disgraced and jailed former tech whiz Greg Meffert. Also in the story: Stone Age Granite & Marble, the granite company Nagin ran with his sons. Nagin, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February 2014, is serving a 10-year prison term in Texarkana, Texas. 2. Endorsements, and spoof endorsements "I am really, really irritated by these people who think they are smarter than the American people. ... I want to see the American people heard and I want to see Donald Trump president." — Former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, expressing his support for the leading GOP presidential contender. Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge-based parody website The Red Shtick ( had a story titled "GOP Establishment Hoping to Stop Trump With Bobby Jindal's Endorsement of Trump." The spoof story quoted a Republican National Committee spokesman as saying, "We're hoping Gov. Jindal's notorious kiss-of-death endorsement will finally undermine Trump's seemingly indefatigable popularity." 3. A step closer to REAL ID The Louisiana Senate Transportation Committee last week approved Senate Bill 227, which would bring state identification cards into compliance with federal "REAL ID" standards, which have been in place since 2005 in an effort to fight terrorism. Previous bills have been attempted, but former Gov. Bobby Jindal and some Republican legislators fought the move, saying it opens the door to invasion of privacy. SB 227 would make REAL ID-compliant licenses available upon request, and has the backing of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Louisianans without REAL ID licenses eventually will need a passport or other identification to board domestic flights and to access federal buildings. 4. Spring concert schedule overflowing New Orleans' spring concert calendar is starting to fill up as the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival approaches. The Roots, the long-running hip-hop outfit (and house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) will perform a guest-filled tribute concert to the late Hot 8 Brass Band saxophonist Clarence "Trixzey" Slaughter at The Orpheum Theater April 29. Warren Haynes, Don Was, John Medeski and others join a tribute to The Band's The Last Waltz at the Saenger Theatre on April 30. The Saenger's Jazz Fest lineup also includes a Janis Joplin tribute (April 18), The Smashing Pumpkins with Liz Phair (April 22) and Trombone Shorty (April 23). The Orpheum Theater has Chick Corea and Bela Fleck (April 16), The Meters (April 22), The Revivalists (April 23), Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. (April 26) and Galactic with JJ Grey & Mofro (April 30). 5. Big change for public housing up for vote this week The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is set to approve new rules that would allow people with criminal records into public housing, which can be a crucial part of re-entry post-incarceration. Local housing advocates, however, fear third-party property managers and landlords may interpret the language in the measure as optional, not mandatory. The proposed measure, set for a HANO board vote March 29, allows people convicted of crimes such as armed robbery and murder to receive public housing assistance, pending approval from a three-member panel. (Currently, families with household members who have been convicted of a crime can be turned away following a criminal background check.) Language in the proposed rule changes doesn't make the rules expressly mandatory. Members of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, Stand With Dignity and Voice of the Ex-Offender, among others, are demanding HANO revise the proposed policy to apply not only to direct-run HANO sites but also to private developers who receive federal funding for affordable housing.

The Times-Picayune Gov. Bobby Jindal's food stamp policy called 'starvation plan' by Richard A. Webster November 10, 2015 -c1ee87b2b0db7e33 Dozens of people gathered outside the New Orleans food stamp office Tuesday (Nov. 10) to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to waive a federal requirement that people work to receive nutrition assistance. They call it Jindal's "starvation plan." The group, led by Stand with Dignity, filed an administrative complaint demanding that the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services immediately reverse its decision, which the protestors said could cut off benefits for as many as 62,000 people. They also announced that 20 of their members will fast for 15 days in solidarity with families going hungry across the state. Don Everard, director of Hope House, said that despite reports of an improving economy, he daily meets people who struggle to find a job that pays them a living wage. He mentioned a woman who works at a department store for $9 an hour but can't get scheduled for more than 15 hours a week. Under the changes to the state program, she wouldn't be eligible for food stamps. "It's insane," he said.

New Orleans Has a New Jobs Program. But Can It Stop Bullets?

The city council has granted the mayor’s wish requiring local hiring for city-contracted projects. Will more jobs really mean less violence?


Image REUTERS/Lee Celano
REUTERS/Lee Celano
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is positive that one way to solve the city’s violence program is through jobs. Landrieu’s “Hire NOLA” initiative, which he introduced last month, passed through the city council on October 1. It requires companies or organizations with city contracts over $150,000 to set aside at least half of project-work hours for local residents. A special priority is placed on the homeless, the chronically unemployed, and formerly incarcerated residents—who are set to claim at least 30 percent of those hours under the new local hiring ordinance. The new policy is largely credited to the grassroots #BlackWorkersMatter-organized campaign orchestrated by the group Stand With Dignity. It’s the latest victory for Stand With Dignity’s parent organization, the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice, which has been pushing for better wages and jobs in the metro region for African Americans and Latino day laborers since Hurricane Katrina. “Hire NOLA” arrives just two months after the city passed a living wage ordinance requiring city contractors to pay workers at least $10.55 hour—a 44 percent pay increase from what workers were typically earning. Ten Years After Katrina, Movement for Black Lives in New Orleans Offers National Lessons Audience of Thousands Joins Van Jones, Local and National Civil Rights Leaders in Virtual Town Hall NEW ORLEANS, September 24, 2015—In a virtual Town Hall today attended by thousands, national and New Orleans-based civil rights leader shared stories and strategies from a decade of Black Resistance in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Town Hall, moderated by Van Jones, covered resistance to the privatization of schools and the expansion of the cradle-to-prison pipeline, the exclusion of Black workers from quality jobs, and resistance to the expansion of white power in post-Katrina New Orleans.

City Council committee endorses plan to help disadvantaged find jobs with city contractors

A New Orleans City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a new policy that would connect local and disadvantaged workers with jobs generated by city contracts.
Councilman James Gray, who is sponsoring the measure at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, said he will place the measure on the City Council’s regular agenda next week so it can receive additional public comment.
The Hire NOLA policy is part of the strategy of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity, which was introduced last year partly as a way to chip away at the reported 52 percent unemployment rate among working-age African-American men in New Orleans. It calls for businesses with city construction, alteration or demolition contracts worth more than $150,000 to turn first to the city’s Office of Workforce Development as a source for finding new hires. Those contractors also would be required to demonstrate “good-faith efforts” to hire local and disadvantaged workers. The policy also would cover any cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and a party receiving tax incentives for economic development projects valued at more than $150,000.

Mayor Landrieu gets praise, suggestions for local hiring program

By Richard A. Webster, | The Times-Picayune September 08, 2015 Mayor Mitch Landrieu's new job hiring proposal won widespread support during the first public meeting on the issue Tuesday (Sept. 8), as members of the City Council, community activists, nonprofits and business leaders sang its praises. Andre Kelly with the Associated General Contractors of Louisiana called Hire NOLA a "great idea" at the council's Economic Development Committee meeting. Members of Stand with Dignity said the proposed ordinance was "beautiful" and a "critical step for building opportunities" for low-income workers. Councilman Jason Williams said that it could represent a transformative moment in how the city tackles the issue of income inequality. "There is a real spirit of collaboration. It's not a situation where people are outside the door protesting," Williams said. "That makes me very hopeful that this city can one day look like Atlanta or a Houston in terms of the size of its middle class." Along with that praise, however, came questions about the program's implementation, enforcement and whether there could be a ripple effect in other parishes that could hurt New Orleans workers.