New Orleans Command Provides Tokens of Hope to Homeless Community
By: Laura Poff
On a cold winter evening in early January, the New Orleans corps’ Cold Patrol took a canteen around the city to offer food, cocoa and blankets to those stuck out on the streets, encouraging anyone they met to spend the night at the nearby shelter, where they would be protected from the cold.
They came across a man named Bob who was confined to a wheelchair and in poor physical health. Bob accepted soup, coffee and a blanket but declined their offer to take him inside. When the Cold Patrol returned the following evening, Bob’s wheelchair was nearby but Bob was gone.
“Bob died sometime between late that evening and early the following morning,” Major David Worthy, New Orleans Area Commander, said. “Our hearts broke for Bob and so many like him who find themselves confined to the reality of life on the streets.”
Bob, and so many like him, often struggle to access or accept services that take them away from their communities. Major Worthy wanted to come up with a new approach to social services that would address those barriers.
“New Orleans has a pretty significant footprint when it comes to homeless services,” he said. “But, as a general rule, we’ve been asking clients and potential recipients to come to our facility for services. I thought we could take a different approach.”
In partnership with his team and the homeless coalition, Worthy created the Tokens of Hope campaign which will bring crisis intervention, case management and assessment services to the streets through Homeless Assistance Response Teams (HART), eliminating that barrier to services.
The campaign will also include the distribution of wooden tokens to members of the homeless community, by HART teams, case managers and members of the community who can purchase them and hand them out to those in need. Those tokens can then be redeemed for free services, including meals, shelter and case management, at The Salvation Army, though tokens are not required in order to access these services.
“Our hope is that the token will serve as the conduit to connect people in need to Salvation Army services that could redirect their lives,” Worthy said. “We’re not changing anything. We’re looking at how we provide our services and how people can best access those services.”
Tokens are available at no charge but when members of the community heard about the campaign, they began calling the center and asking to purchase tokens to give away to members of the homeless community whom they encounter around the city. Worthy began selling tokens for $10 each.
“There’s been a lot of buzz locally,” he said. “We aren’t billing this as a fundraiser but that’s been happening as more people want to participate.”
Tokens of Hope is set to officially launch in New Orleans in mid-February. For more information, visit tokensofhope.org.