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Non-Profit Trying To End Poverty Without Government Social Programs

Today marks the 50th anniversary of former President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of war on poverty. A non-profit is trying a new approach in New Orleans to lessen the persistently high poverty rate in the city.

Na’imah Zulu heard about the Family Independence Initiative when she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area after Hurricane Katrina.

The group is designed to help families by learning what they want to accomplish without using government social services. It provides assistance with non-traditional funding, like micro-loans and Kickstarter online campaigns.

Zulu wanted a place to preserve the Mardi Gras Indian traditions.

With the group’s help, the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery opened on North Rampart Street.

“They respect the fact the environment in which you live and come from — this idea may actually be needed. And the idea that we were coming up with was more from a cultural standpoint," Zulu said. "And you can’t go to a bank and get a loan from something cultural, usually.”  

Family Independence Initiative spokesman Jesus Gerena has been traveling to New Orleans for the past two years and learning what families are doing for themselves.

The plan is to share what works.

“As families begin to do for themselves others will pay attention and want to be able to do just as well and so the impact will become larger and larger,” Gerena said.

Bill Quigley is director of the Gillis Long Poverty Center at Loyola University. He says that while the War on Poverty has greatly helped senior citizens — many are being left stranded economically.

“In terms of really helping people to exit poverty and helping people to be able to live a life of dignity and independence we still have a long way to go,” Quigley said.

The Family Independence Initiative is planning on helping 35 families in New Orleans.

Eileen is a news reporter and producer for WWNO. She researches, reports and produces the local daily news items. Eileen relocated to New Orleans in 2008 after working as a writer and producer with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. for seven years.