NEW ORLEANS -- Crews are still finishing the Williams Building on Louisiana Avenue, but already tenants are moving into half of the 42 apartments.
They urgently need these apartments, because the Williams complex is the second designed by the homeless advocacy group Unity to help people who have been homeless.
"I just think about how much they suffered, and how much this means to them," said Unity Executive Director Martha Kegel.
"You're waking up in your own home, which is amazing," said a tenant named Marie.
"I'm realizing it's okay, you're inside, you're safe," added her husband Willis.
Marie and Willis were homeless 14 months, both with health issues, she in a wheelchair. "Waking up in the middle of the night, and there being some stranger nearby," said Marie, remembering the tough life on the streets.
Unity works to change lives by using case managers to find solutions for problems that led to homelessness.
"Help them get to their medical appointments, help them get to their mental health appointments if they need that, help them get reconnected with families, help them get jobs," said Kegel.
"I really believe that we'll be back on our feet pretty quickly," predicted Willis.
Half of the apartments are rented to the so-called working poor to make sure they don't become homeless. The renovated building is expected to spur improvements in the neighborhood.
"It was in bad shape, and now you can see the wonderful colors, and the fact that it's on Louisiana Avenue, and stands out with color and dignity will I think influence other development in the area," said developer Pres Kabacoff.
Work is already underway on Unity's third complex. It will have over 100 apartments when it opens next summer. Unity leaders say the city and state provided $10 million dollars in funding for the Willams complex.