Mission Center Assumes New Role for Katrina Rebuilding Efforts

As hundreds of thousands of Katrina evacuees return to new housing through rental assistance and many more are await the mobile homes promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a mission center for the homeless has assumed a new role.

After Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast more than two months ago Brantley Mission Center in New Orleans – which has been ministering to the homeless since 1927 – now faces a city evacuated of all the homeless people.

“We’re retooling our ministry,” said Tobey Pitman, director of the Brantley Mission Center in New Orleans, according to the Associated Baptist Press. “We’ve gotten out of the homeless business temporarily because there are no homeless.”

With more than 9,000 Southern Baptist volunteers engaged in ongoing relief work, Brantley “retooled” and opened its center last week to house volunteers. It currently serves as a 250-bed dorm for the Baptist workers who are rebuilding churches and homes on a long-term basis.

“There’s at least a year’s work to be done,” said Pitman. “We just hope the interest is not lost in coming to New Orleans.”

Pitman is currently teamed up with Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans to plan ministries for new mobile home parks set up by FEMA.

About 19,000 mobile homes have been delivered by FEMA since Katrina’s landfall and evacuees are still waiting for the total 125,000 trailers that were said to be on their way. Other housing plans include rental assistance which has aided 488,000 people.

As plans are underway for the mobile park urban ministries, Pitman said it provides a wonderful opportunity for outreach.

“Katrina’s given us a wonderful opportunity to provide evangelistic outreach as well as other kinds of social support to the residents of these parks,” he said to ABP.

“Ultimately, we’d like to have Bible studies or church services as well as one-on-one evangelism opportunities.”

Brantley Center originally opened in New Orleans in 1927 to serve the homeless men who were affected by the Depression and searching for jobs. The center was later named in the 1940s after Clovis Brantley, a local pastor and leader of what is now known as the North American Mission Board, which is the third largest disaster relief network in the continent.

Since the August storm, the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has prepared a record 10.5 million meals, according to a recent announcement. The previous record stood at 3.5 million meals in 2004.