05/07/2014 - In One Year, New Orleans Reduced Veteran Homelessness by 43%, Chronic Homelessness by 30%

By Robert Pulster, USICH Regional Coordinator

Community, City, State, and Federal partners gathered in New Orleans last week to announce the results of the City’s 2014 Point-in-time count.  The results are staggering.  Over the course of just one year, New Orleans reduced homelessness among Veterans by 43 percent and chronic homelessness by 30 percent. In one year, New Orleans reduced unsheltered homelessness by 21 percent, 85 percent since 2011. 

Since 2007, New Orleans has reduced overall homelessness by 83 percent, showing steady annual decreases since 2009. The number of people experiencing homelessness in New Orleans is now three percent below what it was before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This is a stunning achievement.

“We have reached a long-sought milestone, said Martha Kegel, the Executive Director of UNITY, the Continuum of Care lead agency. “For the first time since Hurricane Katrina caused soaring homelessness in New Orleans nearly nine years ago, the hard work of nonprofit and government partners have helped bring the number of people in New Orleans who are suffering in homelessness below what it was before Katrina.”

As USICH’s Regional Coordinator for New Orleans, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that strong collaboration among community, City, State, and Federal partners has had on the effort to end homelessness in New Orleans.  In 2011, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made ending homelessness a priority. Under his leadership, the City released a plan to end homelessness and created the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is jointly chaired by the City and the Director of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System

The collaborative effort continued to build momentum through Dedicating Opportunities to End Homelessness (DOEH), a 10 city initiative supported by HUD and its leadership at the New Orleans Field Office.  DOEH brought new partners and new energy to the cause, particularly the Louisiana Housing Corporation and three local Housing Authorities: New Orleans, Kenner, and Jefferson Parish. 

Moreover, UNITY and other community partners, working with the Community Solutions 100,000 Homes Campaign, took an active involvement in the national convening of Rapid Results Boot Camps. This engagement led to a concentrated citywide effort to successfully connect over 500 individuals with stable housing in six-months. 

The effort in New Orleans was also supported through a statewide Policy Academy on Chronic Homelessness sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).  

At the announcement on May 1, UNITY Executive Director Martha Kegel highlighted that the HUD DOEH initiative together with the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the Mayor's Interagency Council, and the state Policy Academy on Chronic Homelessness have all played important roles in New Orleans’ success. 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, "Together with UNITY of Greater New Orleans and the 63 partner agencies and service providers that make up the Continuum of Care, we are connecting homeless individuals and families with the essential services they need to put them back on the path towards stable, permanent housing and prosperity. Through our combined efforts, we have reduced homelessness in New Orleans to pre-Katrina levels, a significant achievement that gives us momentum as we continue this work into the future."

“With nearly 2000 people lacking a home on a single night, and nearly a quarter of them chronically homeless, we still have a long way to go,” said Kegel.  “But the tremendous progress we have made in reducing homelessness by 83 percent since 2007 gives us confidence that the methods we are using are effective."

New Orleans can end both Veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015.  The city is demonstrating that strong collaborations among City, State, and Federal partners and a focused effort on using data to drive results is making all the difference.

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