New Orleans Becomes First U.S. City to Find Homes for All Its Homeless Veterans

New Orleans has become the first major U.S. city to end veteran homelessness, exceeding the goal of the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by a full year.

“We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement announcing that New Orleans had housed all known veterans in the Crescent City.

More than 300 mayors, six governors, and 71 other local officials have joined the pledge to house every veteran by the end of 2015 and Landrieu took that challenge further, pledging to end veteran homelessness city-wide by the end of 2014. On January 2nd of this year, city social workers moved the last homeless veteran into an apartment, effectively ending veteran homelessness in the city.

The annual point-in-time count taken in January 2014 found just 193 homeless veterans. Over the course of the year, outreach workers identified an additional 35 veterans who had not been included in that count. In the end, the 227 total homeless veterans in New Orleans was relatively small compared with the numbers seen in larger metropolitan areas. The January 2014 count found 714 homeless vets in Chicago, 1,645 in Los Angeles, and 3,739 in New York.

“There are of course other cities and states that have higher numbers, but the kinds of barriers that they have been able to overcome as a partnership within the city of New Orleans is really just a landmark,” says Ann Oliva, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for special needs. “If they can do it, I think that other communities can do it. And they can definitely be a model for other communities to tackle this in their own community.”

“The solutions that work for veterans are the solutions that work for all people,” says Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The problem is absolutely solvable when we invest in the practices that we know work.”

UNITY of Greater New Orleans, the point organization for coordinating all homeless housing in the area, worked with more than 60 nonprofit and government agencies in a race to meet the Mayor’s deadline.

An apartment complex was renovated specifically with the goal of housing homeless veterans and is operated by UNITY.

With veteran homelessness eliminated, the city has implemented a rapid response plan to ensure newly homeless veterans can be quickly placed into housing. The City’s goal is to find housing for every newly identified homeless veteran within 30 days.

“We can’t say that no veteran is ever going to be homeless again,” UNITY Executive Director Martha Kegel says. “But what we can say is that we are not going to have veterans living as homeless for very long.”
—Courtesy of Controversial Times

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