The First City To End Homelessness Among Veterans

CREDIT: Kira Lerner

New Orleans has met its goal of housing all of its homeless veterans by the end of 2014, a year ahead of the national goal set by Michelle Obama in her challenge to state and local leaders across the country.

With the opening of a new apartment building to house the homeless and the strategic utilization of resources from nonprofits’ and federal and city agencies, all of the 193 homeless veterans identified by UNITY of Greater New Orleans in March 2014 are now living in a permanent home. Mayor Mitch Landrieu made the announcement less than a year after he pledged that New Orleans would be the first city to accomplish the goal.

“I am honored and very pleased to report that we have housed 227 veterans, exceeding our goal of 193, thanks to the hard work of our committed partners,” the mayor said in a statement.

The final push came from a $7.6 million project spearheaded by UNITY which converted a school that had been vacant since Hurricane Katrina into 55 units for homeless people and almost as many units for low-income families, according to the Times-Picayune.

Landrieu’s policy advisor Sam Joel told the Times-Picayune that the city now has the resources ready to rapidly house newly identified homeless veterans in the future.

“Of course you understand that going forward, it’s not like no one is ever going to become homeless again, but it’s about having a rapid response system in place so that the number of veterans who are in homelessness at any given point is never more than what you can house that month,” UNITY Director Martha Kegel told ThinkProgress last month.

UNITY will continue working to ensure that any veterans who fall into homelessness are quickly given support and housing and will also now begin working towards its other homelessness goals.

“There are going to be veterans falling into homelessness as long as we have an affordable housing crisis,” Kegel said. “But we’re going to continue to prioritize them and make sure they get housed first and at the same time, we’re going to be going back to the task we’ve been working on all along of seriously reducing chronic homelessness and hoping that we can end that a year early as well.”

While New Orleans is the first city to completely end veteran homelessness, both Phoenix and Salt Lake City housed all of their chronically homeless veterans last year. Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has experienced homelessness for at least a year or has gone through four episodes of homelessness in the past three years and has a disability.

The federal initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015 is part of a larger push to eliminate homelessness overall by 2020.


CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos