In lieu of a traditional ribbon-cutting, the newly relocated and expanded Ozanam Inn marked its Feb. 17 grand opening with a cutting of fishing lines – a playful nod to the shelter’s “Give a Fish to Eat Today, Teach to Fish for Tomorrow” antidote to the problem of homelessness.
It’s that two-fold mission – attending to the immediate needs of the shelterless, while providing them with wrap-around services leading to their long-term employment and housing – that has made Ozanam Inn a beacon of hope in New Orleans for the last 66 years, said its CEO, Clarence Adams Sr.
“Since 1955, Ozanam Inn has offered emergency shelter, aid and comfort to the poor and needy of our city (by) providing basic human needs such as food, shelter and clothing, as well as healthcare assistance and other vital services – everything, completely free of charge,” Adams said.
Boasting more than 31,300 square feet of space at its completely renovated new headquarters at 2239 Poydras St., Ozanam Inn is now equipped to offer overnight lodging to as many as 97 men. Also, for the first time in its history, the shelter is able to provide safe, secure and dignified overnight lodging to 59 women, Adams said.
“I have the best staff in the world,” he said. “Every day they give of themselves so that people who are less fortunate can achieve their goals.”
One man launched big movement
Ozanam Inn, whose new location began welcoming guests last November, is being funded through a combination of private donations, private foundation and government grants. The ministry traces its roots to the outreach of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, whose corporal and spiritual works of mercy in 19th-century France went on to become the international Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“In the early 1800s, Frederic Ozanam sought the poor, the hungry and those who needed clothes,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, representing the Archdiocese of New Orleans at the ceremony. “He didn’t just see (the poor), but he acted with compassion; he suffered with them; he entered into their suffering and into their needs, and he did something about it. His heart was moved.
“This building, and all that happens in this sacred place, does the same thing,” the archbishop added. “It not only sees the needs of others, but it offers them God’s love and the necessities of life.”
Archbishop Aymond said he hoped the new location of Ozanam Inn, which fronts a busy artery leading to and from the CBD, would remind passersby by not just of the existence of homelessness in our region, “but to do something about it.”
“It is prayer and action – not just prayer – that makes this become a reality,” he said, noting that current and future guests would not only find food, shelter and other basics at the shelter, “but also a listening ear, a comforting word and a compassionate heart.”
Sacred, dignified spaces
After the ceremony, attendees were invited don face masks and tour Ozanam Inn’s sprawling physical plant. Features include an outside seating area; a large kitchen and common eating area for the serving of breakfast, lunch and dinner; numerous sleeping dorms that provide segregated sleeping quarters for male and female guests; medical and dental exam rooms, complete with on-site x-ray technology; separate common rooms for men and women offering opportunities for fellowship, study and quiet reading; and classrooms accommodating case management and life-skills training.
Adams said the new location also is enabling Ozanam Inn to expand its partnerships with local medical and dental schools, the Healthcare for the Homeless non-profit and United Healthcare, the latter of which is partnering with Ozanam Inn on a pilot program to provide followup medical care to the homeless upon their discharge from the hospital.
“Back in the old building, we had (medical and dental) services, but our partners would have to see people in the hallways,” Adams said of the shelter’s former Camp Street location, sold in late 2019.
Fittingly, Ozanam Inn’s second floor is anchored by a spacious and light-filled chapel outfitted with an altar, crucifix, pews, stations of the cross plaques, a monstrance for future adoration opportunities and stained-glass renderings Christ the Good Shepherd and Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
Archbishop Aymond shared his hope that the chapel would be a place of prayer in which God is present “through Word and sacrament,” and a space that would “bring healing and strength” to all those who visit it.
Ozanam Inn is seeking both volunteers and paid staff to carry out its wide-ranging services, among them, adult education and computer literacy programs. For more information, please call (504) 523-1184 or visit www.ozanaminn.org.
By: Beth Donze
Source: Clarion Herald