Hotel for homeless moms named for Phyllis Taylor
Hotel Hope, a non-profit, interfaith housing facility that will provide lodging to homeless mothers and their children beginning in 2017, was named in honor of New Orleans philanthropist Phyllis M. Taylor at a recent ceremony.
Located at 4222 South Broad St., next to Blessed Trinity Church, the two-story, 6,500-square-foot former convent will offer accommodations, meals, counseling and other supportive services to as many as 13 homeless women and their children for an average of 30 days. Assistance will be geared toward helping families achieve residential stability and economic self-sufficiency following a job loss, family conflict or some other crisis.
“Today is certainly a great day for me, and not because the facility’s going to bear my name but because of what is going to occur inside,” said Taylor, addressing dozens of advocates for the homeless gathered outside Hotel Hope’s main entrance at the May 10 naming ceremony. “This will be a haven for mothers and children, a place where they can live safely, day to day, and organize their lives and develop the means to live independently,” she said.
“What will occur within these walls has the potential to change lives,” Taylor added. “It is my fervent hope that those who go through these doors experience the love and the friendship that I’ve had all my life. When they leave, it is my hope that they remember what they have been given and (then) share it with others.”
The still-to-be renovated building that will become Hotel Hope was constructed in 1960 for the Dominican Sisters who served St. Matthias Elementary School. Before Hurricane Katrina, the former convent operated as a battered women’s shelter under Catholic Charities.
Presentation Sister Mary Lou Specha, Hotel Hope’s executive director, said the building’s projected six- to nine-month renovation will begin sometime this year.
‘Chalet’ will precede hotel
Meanwhile, Sister Mary Lou reported to guests at the naming ceremony that she and Presentation Sister Julie Marsh – Hotel Hope’s director of operations – already had helped more than 70 women and 140 children find temporary lodging in inexpensive hotels and at the New Orleans Women and Children Shelter.
To facilitate this ministry as the main convent site receives its overhaul, Hotel Hope will open a smaller emergency housing site at nearby 3939 General Taylor St. in September: the two-bedroom “Hotel Hope Chalet,” which will accommodate two homeless families for up to 30 days and assign them a case worker who will guide them on the road to self-sufficiency.
“We believe the core value of what (Hotel Hope) can share – it might be a bed, it might be a meal – but if we do it with love, everybody will change,” Sister Mary Lou said.
“I can’t conceive of anything worse in our society than having homeless women and children living on the streets, kids sleeping in cardboard boxes, kids sleeping in abandoned cars and abandoned houses,” said Dr. Jack Andonie, president of Hotel Hope’s board of directors. “(Hotel Hope) is a dream come true because it will take kids off the streets of the city of New Orleans.”
Hotel Hope Chalet is seeking volunteers 21 years and older to be present at various times of the day to show hospitality to guests and record their volunteer experiences in a journal. Volunteers can choose one or more shifts ranging in duration from four hours to an overnight shift of 12 hours. The chalet’s office will be equipped with a computer, a security camera monitor and a futon for overnight volunteers. An information session for prospective volunteers will be held July 27 at 7 p.m. at Blessed Trinity’s parish office, 4230 S. Broad St. For more information, call 233-4760.