New Orleans Becomes Latest City To End Chronic Veteran Homelessness

A homeless man lies under the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass, where up to 150 homeless live, in New Orleans on Wednesday,
A homeless man lies under the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass, where up to 150 homeless live, in New Orleans on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. The city’s health department put up notices Monday giving the estimated 150 homeless people 72 hours to leave the area, citing health hazards. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The streets aren’t quite as rough in the Big Easy anymore.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement on Wednesday that the city has squashed its chronic veteran homelessness issue. The bolstering news actually came ahead of schedule.

Together with the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs has committed to ending chronic veteran homelessness across the country by the end of 2015.

According to last year's point-in-time count, there were an estimated 193 veterans on the streets of New Orleans and on July 4, the mayor committed to getting each one a place to live.

By bringing together organizations and agencies that hadn’t previously worked together or shared data in the past, the city managed to surpass its goal in a matter of six months and housed 227 veterans.

With its new system in place, New Orleans says it will be able to house a homeless veteran within an average of 30 days, according to the Times-Picayune.

When a homeless veteran is identified, Unity of Greater New Orleans, or one of its partners, connects with the VA's Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program. That group confirms that the homeless person is in fact a veteran, assesses their mental and physical health and provides up to five months of rental assistance.

During that period, the city and its coalition of homeless advocacy groups looks for a more permanent housing option through the VA’s voucher program or the Housing Authority of New Orleans, the Times-Picayune noted.

"Veteran homelessness is an important and challenging issue ... but the work of ending veteran homelessness is never really done," Landrieu said in a statement. "That’s why we have also created a new and sustainable rapid response model that combines all available local, state and federal resources with the work of our local active duty and former military personnel –- utilizing veterans to help veterans."

New Orleans' success further confirms that the housing first approach is the most effective way to end homelessness.

The method supports finding a home for a person in need first, and then dealing with his or her emotional, health and employment issues after.

As of January last year, 49,993 veterans were homeless, marking a 33 percent drop since 2010, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report.

Phoenix and Salt Lake City have already eliminated veteran homelessness in their cities.

To date, 312 mayors have joined first lady Michelle Obama's Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

"[Veteran homelessness is] a stain on the soul of this nation," Michelle Obama said in July at a homelessness conference, according to the Associated Press. "[The] idea that anyone who has worn our country's uniform spends their nights sleeping on the ground should horrify us."



Bryan Adams' Stunning Vet Photo Series