New Orleans is one of the most culturally unique cities in America. However, amidst its rich history and lively traditions, there exists extreme poverty and violence. The objective conditions of New Orleans such as poverty, unemployment, violence, poor healthcare, segregation, inadequate housing, drugs, and racism have created a cycle of despair that many in New Orleans cannot escape. These conditions are not isolated in New Orleans but reproduced and reinforced through the basic structure of American society, governmental and institutional policies, and ideologies. While all poor residents in New Orleans internalize and shape the oppression and marginalization they experience on a daily basis, some New Orleans residents have redefined the limitations, oppression, and exclusion they experience through violence, drugs, and a destructive lifestyle. The values, beliefs, ideals, and behaviors of these residents are often in direct opposition to mainstream culture. While only a small percentage of individuals in New Orleans embrace this type of lifestyle, their actions have powerful and influential effects on all residents in New Orleans.
Throughout New Orleans, there are numerous community organizations that work to alleviate the conditions of poverty and provide outreach to at-risk youth. This research critically examines and evaluates the philosophies and community development efforts of three faith-based organizations in New Orleans. These faith-based organizations in New Orleans are Trinity Christian Community, Urban Impact Ministries, and Desire Street Ministries. All three organizations are part of the Christian Community Development Movement, a national Christian movement dedicated to bringing the love of Christ to poor communities across the nation. The structure and mission of these organizations is shaped by their conservative Christian theologies and critical interpretation of the Bible. This research examines the ways ministers and staff at these organizations use Christian spirituality in their outreach and community development programs for youth in some of New Orleans’ poorest communities. The research also examines how the complex concepts of race and community impact the community development approaches of these organizations.