Louisiana Weekly Article on Healing Together New Orleans Art Exhibit

Copy of the Article from the Louisiana Weekly

New Orleans area students find therapy through art

18th April 2017   ·  

By Deja Dennis
Contributing Writer

Students from Arise Academy Charter School set out to heal the divide in their community with their artwork, signifying the start of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The Healing Together New Orleans Art Exhibit was held at the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue on April 3. The Southern United Neighborhoods non-profit, also called SUN, organized the event to give middle school students the opportunity to express themselves through art, and have their work on display for the community.

Arise Academy students display their work for the Healing Together New Orleans Art Exhibit to coincide with National Crime Victim’s Rights Week.

SUN works with low-income families in the neighborhoods surrounding the Healing Center to find affordable housing and resources. Marie Hurt, the director of SUN, said the art exhibit was designed to encourage middle school students to express their feelings on crime and how communities can heal together. She believes it benefits the surrounding community when they begin to see how issues like crime and public safety affects children.

“A lot of the time, people don’t talk to the kids,” Hurt said emphasizing the importance of hearing from young people in the community.

Several local organizations joined with SUN in the event including Justice and Beyond, Affordable Healing Arts, Groundwork New Orleans, Here to Help Counseling, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, A Community Voice, and a few others.

Beth Butler, an organizer for A Community Voice, said she contacted Arise Academy to get the students involved with Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Prior to the event, she gave the art students the topics “healing together” and “peace” to create pieces for the display.

“It’s hard for kids to communicate their experiences,” Butler said. This is how she knew that it would be best for them to speak through their artwork. She explained how it was also like therapy for the students.

“Art heals,” Butler said. She believes that children are impacted by crime greatly and the exhibit is a great way to grow art therapy. Her mission was to help students express themselves through art and for the community to see what they produced.

The person responsible for relaying the assignment to the students was Nicole Higgins, an art teacher at the academy.

“It was difficult at first,” Higgins said, “because many of the students had strong ideas, but were unsure.” Higgins counseled the students to help them gain a clear vision for their work. She said that everyone went in different directions, which resulted in very unique ideas. The kids created images depicting what it means to belong to their community and how to bring about peace.

“The kids were invested in this topic,” Higgins explained, “It really pushed them to be more creative.”

Among the young artists were Kennedi Smith, and Archanna Byrd, both 14. “I wanted people to see that we need peace in New Orleans,” Smith said about her project.

“My art shows healing overtime and how to move forward,” Byrd explained. She also said that the crime victims are not alone and that even the offenders can heal and be forgiven.

Sgt. Stephanie Minto-Gibson from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, who is part of the Crime Victims Reparations Program assisting victims of all crimes, said the event highlighted the importance of victims’ rights. Last year 338 victims were helped through the crime victims program, she said. The program assists with medical and funeral expenses, as well as relocation. Minto-Gibson said she hoped the art exhibit would bring about more awareness of the program within the community. Residents can stop by the Healing Center, see the artwork, and learn about the many resources.

The New Orleans Healing Center was excited to have the students’ artwork on display. “The artwork offered the Healing Center visual representation of the youth and their feelings on healing the community,” said Brandon Curran, the event coordinator. The Healing Center offers a wide range of services including job training, physical therapy, mental health facilities, and re-entry for convicted felons as a way to help victims of crime.

“We are holistic in the way we heal,” Curran said, meaning that the community should prosper as a whole leaving no one out including the young people.

The students’ artwork will be on display in the Healing Center until the end of April. The organizers and the Healing Center hope to get more schools involved next year.

This article originally published in the April 17, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.



Art Exhibit and Community Resource Center Opens April 3rd at the New Orleans Healing Center for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Middle School students in Nicole Higgins’ art class are hard at work creating art for the Healing Together New Orleans Project that will be featured at the Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue for the month of April. This exhibit will open on Monday April 3rd at 1pm to kickoff National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 2nd-8th, a national event to promote public awareness of crime victims’ rights and services for victims of all types of crime. The Healing Together New Orleans Art Exhibit and Community Resource Center will be featured at the Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue for the entire month of April.

Opening Event
Monday, April 3rd
New Orleans Healing Center
2372 St. Claude Avenue

This exhibit is being hosted by Southern United Neighborhoods (SUN), a nonprofit that works with low income families, and will feature art by community leaders and students from Arise Academy, as well as from victims of crime. Residents are invited to come out to the exhibit to see the great community artworks that embody this year’s NCVRW theme of Strength, Resilience, and Justice. Resources for crime victims and their families will also be available for community members.

The New Orleans Healing Center incorporates over 25 various privately-run businesses and organizations (silos) to help holistically heal the surrounding neighborhoods. These silos include; AHA (Affordable Healing Arts, Magnolia Physical Therapy, ASI Credit Union, New Orleans Food Coop, Crouch Law, Island of Salvation Botanica, Café Istanbul and many others. The New Orleans Healing Center is excited to link these survivors with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Community leaders, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and organizations that provide services for crime victims and their families, as well as reentry programs for recently incarcerated will also be on hand to provide information about their services.

By increasing the general public’s awareness of crime victims’ and survivors’ rights and available resources, SUN is providing a critical public service to the community. According to Steve Derene, Executive Director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, which administers the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Community Awareness Project, “It is critically important that crime survivors in New Orleans know that help and hope are available to them.”

This project is supported by a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Community Awareness Project subgrant awarded by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators under a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.


Join SUN for Healing Together New Orleans

Month-Long National Crime Victims’ Rights visual and literary art exhibit at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse at 2221 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA that will be called “Healing Together New Orleans: Strength, Resilience and Justice” and opens on April 3rd and focuses on victimization and the healing and recovery process.

Victims of crime, along with their family members & loved ones are encouraged to either participate in the submission of art or photography of or concerning something memorable about a loved one, survivors of crime and artists who are concerned about crime are also encouraged to submit art pieces to this exhibit.

Works can be submitted that are virtual or literacy, to encourage all types of expression.

Deadline for Inclusion in Exhibit Book will be March 27th

Artwork can be listed anonymously if desired.

Please email ncvrw@healingtogetherneworleans.org with project idea and reserve exhibit space.

Or simply fill out the content form below.

This project is supported by a National Crime Victims’ Right Week Community Awareness Project subgrant awarded by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators under a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Healing Together New Orleans is a Project of Southern United Neighborhoods


Community Conversations on Lead Poisoning

Join our community conversation!

Date: Tuesday December 20th

Time: 1pm or 6pm

If you are interested in joining the group discussion, please contact 504-941-2852. Space is limited so please call if interested.

We invite you to participate in a community conversation about lead exposure in children. We are looking for people who are:

  • Adults over the age of 18
  • Community members residing in areas at high risk for lead exposure
  • Parents of children who have been affected by lead or exposed to lead
  • Interested in being part of a national conversation about ways to prevent children from being exposed to lead and to address the needs of children who have been affected by lead

The focus groups will be held by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Health Impact Project is working on a research study to help prevent children from coming into contact with lead and to support children who have already been exposed to lead.

Participation in the group discussion is completely voluntary. The focus group is planned for Tuesday, December 20th and should take about 90 minutes. All participants will receive a $25 gift card.

If you are interested in joining the group discussion, please 504-941-2852.


Join SUN for August 29th Day of Service

As part of the City of New Orleans’ Katrina10 Day of Service, SUN will be canvassing to let residents know about FREE programs they can sign up for in their community.  We will be providing information on the following:

  • Housing Programs
  • Home Repair
  • Sanchez Center Program
  • Kids Programs
  • Senior Citizen Programs
  • Neighborhood Improvement Progams

Join us.  We will be meeting at St. David’s Catholic Church Parish Hall at 1120 Lamanche Street (near St. Claude) for 830am to 12:30pm.  Please register at http://katrina10.org/

Email us at director@southernunitedneighborhoods.org with questions.


SUN Seeks to Expand Home Repair Program to Violet, LA

Southern United Neighborhoods

Housing Preservation Grant Program

Owner Occupied Rehab Project

(1)      Statement of Activities

(i) The Housing Preservation Grant (HPG) Program is a housing rehabilitation program funded through the USDA Rural Development Agency. This is a Preapplication for the grant program to provide rehabilitation to the owner-occupied homes of very low income and low income families. The HPG Program will be available to owner-occupied properties of low and very low income families located within Violet, LA.

Low and very low income families are defined as following as those living under 80% of the AMI.  Most homeowners targeted are anticipated to fall between 50% to 80% of AMI, so the following income determinations will be used:

Homeowners between 50% AMI will also be eligible for the program.  Violet is a census-designated area with close to 7000 residents and located within the New Orleans MSA. 18 percent of residents live in poverty.  The maximum amount of financial assistance will not exceed $6,429 per owner-occupied home. SUN will provide the assistance in the form of a grant and estimates that 7 homeowners will receive HPG assistance.   All applicants receiving grant funds will be required to sign a grant agreement. The recipient agrees not to sell his house for a period of two years.  If the house is sold the recipient will pay back the grant amount to Southern United Neighborhoods.

II. Selection Process:  SUN will select recipients for HPG assistance from the targeted community of Violet, LA.  Applications will be taken over a three month period in which outreach to this community will be conducted through churches, community centers, website, City agencies and newspaper listings to publicly notify all potentially eligible residents of the program requirements.   Income eligible applications will have a household income not greater than 80% of AMI and maintain proof of ownership for at least 1 year prior to the awarding of grant funds.  The selected will be owner-occupied single-family units of primary residence for the homeowner.

Qualified homeowners will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The rehabilitation specialist will determine if the unit is suitable for repairs and that the scope of work will fall within the range of our program will evaluate units.  For those homes who need repairs that cost in excess of our program, the homeowners will be referred to other agencies for assistance. Scopes of work will be generated for qualified homes, lead risk assessments performed and put out to bid to a list of certified contractors.  Bids will be evaluated using in repairs cost estimates from Housing Developer Pro Software programs. Bidders within 15% range of estimated costs will be awarded the jobs, with points given to those contractors who are Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) and certified in lead safe work practices.  After the bids are awards, the rehabilitation specialist monitors the construction work to make sure repairs are completed properly and payments are issued only after the home passes all Parish inspections and notices of completion are signed by SUN and the homeowner.

III. Environmental Impacts: In order to identify any potential environmental impacts, SUN will follow the following procedures:

  • At the time of application, St. Bernard Parish will be contacted to gain clearance on needed permits.
  • Request a RHS environmental review for homes located within the floodplain.
  • Though it is not anticipated that any homes identified for rehabilitation for this project will be identified as historic, SHPO will be contacted if such homes are identified and appropriate rules and regulations for the rehabilitation of historic properties will be followed.
  • Homeowners will receive information on lead hazards and lead risk assessments on all qualifying homes will be performed to identify lead hazards, work will be conducted using lead safe work practices, and lead clearances will be performed.

IV.  Development Standards:  SUN will use for housing preservation work the standards adopted and amended by the St. Bernard Parish Council and the Louisiana Statewide Building Codes http://lsuccc.dps.louisiana.gov/pdf/Amendments%20effective%201-1-2015.pdf which is an adoption of the Standard Building Codes; National Electrical Code; St Bernard Parish Plumbing and Gas Code and the St. Bernard Parish Mechanical Code.

V. Time Schedule

It is estimated that SUN will process and review for eligibility all applications within the first three months of grant agreement and complete construction on all homes within 18 months.  The proposed schedule covers an 18 month period and is as follows:

Month 1-3:  outreach efforts;  collect application; certify all qualified applications that qualify for the program

Month 4-6: conduct scopes of work  on and lead risk assessments on first 3 properties; refer homeowners whose homes are beyond SUN’s services to other agencies; bid out scopes of work to certified contractors and execute home repair contracts.

Month 7-9: conduct scopes of work  on and lead risk assessments on next 3 properties; refer homeowners whose homes are beyond SUN’s services to other agencies; bid out scopes of work to certified contractors and execute home repair contracts; start construction on 3 homes.

Month 10-13:  conduct scopes of work  on and lead risk assessments on remaining properties; bid out scopes of work to certified contractors and execute home repair contracts; refer homeowners whose homes are beyond SUN’s services to other agencies; start construction on next three homes, monitor construction; issue 3 notices of completion; execute payments

Month 14-17:  start construction on remaining homes, monitor construction; issue 3 notices of completion; execute payments

Month 18:  issue notices of completion on all remaining properties, execute any remaining payments, submit closeout paperwork.

VI.  Staffing

Project Director who is responsible for managing the entire project and tracking the project to completion; Intake specialist to recruit and qualify applicants; Rehabilitation Specialist to generate work write ups and work with contractors; Lead Risk Assessor to perform lead risk assessments and lead clearances.

VII.   Numbers:  SUN anticipates that this project will assist 7 homeowners who are very low or low income.  All of the 7 homes will have household incomes of not more than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), with at least 30% at under 60% of AMI.  As 50% of Violet is African American, SUN expects to assist at least 4 minority homeowners.

VIII. Geographical Area: The geographical area to be served is Violet, LA, which is a census designated area of St. Bernard Parish that is a part of the New Orleans MSA that qualifies as a rural area with a population of less than 10,000.  The boundaries of Violet are the Mississippi River, Docville Canal, Florida Avenue and Farmsite Road.

IX. Budget

The estimated budget for HPG activities includes a homeowner match of supplies and materials of approximately 2000 per home.  This match allows SUN to maximize construction work per unit to address additional repairs per unit to satisfy homeowner needs.  The per unit cost for repairs for 7 units is an average of $6429, anticipating homes to average between 5000 to 6500 per home.  Administrative costs are capped at 5000 for the entire project, and the bulk of such costs are for lead risk assessments and rehabilitation specialist.  Additional administrative costs such as outreach, office space, insurance, telephone, and Internet services will be provided in-kind for this project.

Sources of Funds

HPG                                         $50,000

Homeowner Match               $17,500

In-Kind                                   Outreach, Office Space, Insurance, communications

Total                                       $67500

Use of HPG Funds

Rehabilitation                        $45000  (Avg $6429 per home)

Administrative Costs             $5000

Total                                       $50,000

Administrative Breakdown

Project Director                     50 hours                    $1000

Rehabilitation Specialist       60 hours                    $1200

Intake Specialist                    40 hours                    $800

Lead Risk Assessor                7 homes                   $2000

Total                                                                           $5000

X. Indirect Costs:  There will be no indirect costs attributed to the HPG Program, as proposed in this application.

XI.  Project Director tracks costs using Quickbooks accounting software programs and all SUN programs and financial systems are audited by Cassells & Associates on an annual basis.

XII.  Evaluation:  The effectiveness of SUN’s program will be demonstrated by the long-term affordability resulting to household assisted with these funds.  Monitoring and evaluation of the HPG program will include:


  • documentation of name, address, income, and total rehabilitation cost
  • list of major repairs to home
  • comparison of actual accomplishments to the objectives i.e. number of very low income households assisted and number of households assisted
  • % of HPG funds invested
  • ability to meet program work schedule


All monitoring and evaluation observations will be included in quarterly reports to Rural Development in accordance with §1944.683. 

 XIII. Financial Resources:  SUN will invest as in-kind funds to pay for the following: outreach, office space, insurance, telephone and Internet to support the project.  Homeowners will invest up to 2500 per home in the form of materials in order to help with the cost of repairs.  This investment is for a total of $17,500.

XIV.  Program Income: Since HPG funds will be issued in terms of a grant, program income is not anticipated at this time.

XV. Security Instruments:  SUN does not anticipate utilizing security instruments.

XVI. Other Information:  SUN is competed to utilizing Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contractors to perform the home repairs.

XVII.  Outreach efforts will consist of informational sheets to all owner-occupant households in the targeted communities; community meetings in which residents can come ask questions about the program; publication in community newspapers; information at housing and community fairs in which other information on all available housing programs is made available.  Using the above-mentioned mechanisms, all families within the targeted community will be reached over the first three months of the grant period.

(2).  Experience:  SUN operates a very successful owner-occupied rehabilitation program in partnership with the City of New Orleans’ Office of Community Development that utilizes HOME funds to rehab the housing stock of low income homeowners and bring these homes up to code in order to preserve this housing and keep residents safe.  This program aids residents who may have been victims of contractor fraud and unable to complete repairs, as well as those residents who homes have deteriorated due to environmental and previous repair work that was not up to code.  Since April 2012, SUN has completed 28 homes; 8 under construction; and 6 more in various stages of pre-construction.  Home repairs were completed utilizing over 600,000 dollars in HUD HOME funds.

A list of 20 certified contractors was developed for this project.  SUN’s partnership with certified contractors instead of volunteers has allowed us to complete homes in a timely manner and guarantee repair work for 1 year. In addition, SUN works with minority contractors, DBE contractors, and Section 3 workers to help return income into the neighborhoods in which we work.

SUN’s Owner-Occupied Rehab Project maintains a construction manager/rehabilitation specialist on staff to generate scopes of work, oversee the completion of housing repair work and ensure that projects stay on track; a certified lead risk assessor to perform lead risk assessments and clearances; an a Project Director to complete monthly reporting requirements, document match funds, and monitor construction costs.

(3).  Legal Existence: Please see attached incorporation papers for Southern United Neighborhoods.

(4). Private Nonprofit Entity: NA

(5). Area Served:  SUN proposes to repair at least 7 owner-occupied housing units in Violet, LA, a census-designated area of the New Orleans MSA that is located in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana.  This targeted community has close to 6000 residents with a high homeownership rate of close to 80%, with 18% of those residents living in poverty.  Close to 50% of these residents are African American.  The area was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005 and these homeowners rebuilt their housing stock and experience many of the same circumstances of contractor fraud and substandard construction as post-Katrina homeowners in New Orleans.  The financial impacts of the subsequent disaster of the BP oil spill have stained the pocketbooks of low income homeowners.  As a result, home repair programs are needed to help these homeowners increase the sustainability of their homes.

(6). Overcrowding:  SUN’s home repair program will help homeowners retain their homes and improve the livability and longevity of their homes, reducing the possibility that they will need rental housing in the future.

(7). SUN activities:


  • Owner-Occupied Rehab Project in the Lower 9th Ward (HUD Home Funds/reimbursement grant)
  • Affordable Housing and Financial Literacy Training Programs (Membership Fees 1000/month)
  • Community Engagement Programs – Foundation Grants (20,000/year)

(8).  Other Information:  NA




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