For people who are homeless, the most important thing is to get a roof over their heads.

But nearly as important are a table and chairs, towels, dishes, eating utensils and a saucepan.

UNITY for the Homeless operates a warehouse that stocks such items, providing small, two-person starter kits for people who are finally getting off the streets.

But right now, the shelves are nearly bare, said UNITY’s executive director, Martha Kegel.

The warehouse is available for clients of UNITY’s 63 partner organizations, which include Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and substance-abuse programs along with small faith-based groups.

“That’s why it’s hard for us to keep much in there, because the demand is so high,” Kegel said.

This is where people on the opposite end of the spectrum come in — those of us who have household items we aren’t using.

“We accept gently used items. That’s where we get most of our household goods,” Kegel said. The warehouse also benefits when local hotels or college dorms renovate. “But most of our warehouse is just people trying to declutter.”

The greatest need right now is pots and pans, utensils, pillows and blankets. The UNITY warehouse cannot accept clothes or used mattresses.

Last year, UNITY and its member agencies housed about 500 people.

“We’re not looking for fancy stuff, by any stretch of the imagination,” Kegel said. “This is a way that the community can pitch in and make our federal grants go a lot farther, and it sends a wonderful message to a homeless family that the community cares about them.”

Volunteers also are needed to sort donations.

The warehouse is open during the week at 506 N. St. Patrick St., New Orleans.

To make a donation or for more information, call (504) 483-9300 or call the UNITY office at (504) 821-4496.

A shady proposition

The Arbor Day Foundation will send five small crape myrtles to any Louisiana resident who joins the group by the end of this month. Membership is $10, and you can join online at

The trees, 6 to 12 inches tall, will be sent postpaid at the right time for planting, by April 30, with instructions enclosed.

If a tree doesn’t grow, the foundation will send another free of charge.

Members also receive a bimonthly newsletter and “The Tree Book.”

Crape myrtles grow fast and brighten the landscape even in the heat of summer. They also have lovely fall foliage and beautiful trunks.

If you prefer to join by mail, send your $10 membership fee to CRAPEMYRTLES, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410.

Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at or (504) 432-9257.