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Home Away From Home

May 9, 2008

Alicia Duplessis      

Even before the swell of homelessness in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, the Drop-In Center, run by the Tulane University Department of Pediatrics, offered a beacon of hope for adolescents living on the street. After the storm, the center’s services have expanded to include kids of younger ages.

In addition to serving youth from the ages of 13 to 24, the Drop-In Center now includes pediatric care for children under the age of 13.

Edward Bonin

Edward Bonin is director of the Drop-In Center that offers counseling and medical services to runaway and homeless youth in New Orleans. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

The Drop-In Center continues working to improve the health and quality of life for runaway and homeless youth in the city.

Since its inception in 1991, the center’s services have expanded from “limited” on-site medical care available just two days each week to the current five days per week schedule that avails both psychiatric and physical treatment.

“We’ve come a long way from our start as an HIV/AIDS center for street youth,” says Edward Bonin, Drop-In Center director.

“In the ’90s, we had an outreach team who actually went out into the community to find kids that we could help. Whenever those kids would return to us or more would hear about us and visit, we knew that we were doing something right.”

Although the center was founded as a means to educate street youth about HIV/AIDS, the program’s success has evolved into much more.

“Even before Hurricane Katrina our services were growing,” says Bonin. “We are fortunate to have the support that we have, including the financial support we receive through grants.”

In addition to medical attention, the center is a place where homeless youth can “drop-in” to speak with counselors, take showers, wash clothes and receive messages and mail. Services are provided free of charge, but a new system will allow services to be billed based upon the patient’s income.

“This year we’re going to start billing our services and being reimbursed by Medicaid,” says Bonin. “It will be great to get paid for what we’re doing and still be able to keep the service free those who need us.”

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000