Mayor Landrieu aims to end veteran homelessness by end of 2014

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Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials gave an exhaustive recap of the administration’s successes in 2014 at a press conference at City Hall today, from tax revenue increases and public safety programs to New Orleans’ increasing national profile.

Missing from them, however, were the results of an ambitious goal to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of the year. Landrieu said an announcement is coming next week, but homeless advocacy group Unity of Greater New Orleans announced this month that nearly 200 homeless veterans have been moved into permanent housing. This month, Unity also opened Sacred Heart Apartments on Canal Street, where 11 chronically homeless people have moved in.

The apartments are a project of Unity, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Catholic Charities. The building will serve as a mixed-income complex, with efficiency apartments, one- and two-bedroom apartments and amenities, from a computer lab to courtyard areas. The renovated 87,505 square foot facility was formerly a nursing home, school and convent. Half of its 109 units will be for mixed-income tenants who aren’t homeless, while other tenants will be responsible for rent that amounts to one-third of their income or money earned from military benefits.

Since July 2014, Unity has helped permanently house 197 veterans. That month, Landrieu promised a “challenge” to not only eliminate veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of the year, but to become the first city in the U.S. to do it. The nationwide goal is to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2016. The plan follows Landrieu’s three-pronged, 10-year plan announced back in 2011 which aims to end chronic homelessness within the next 10 to 15 years through a mix of federal, state and local partnerships.

"We made a commitment to be the first city in America that did it," Landrieu said today, adding that the city will make a "really great announcement in a couple days."

According to a May report from Unity, there were 1,981 homeless people on March 31, a “point in time” snapshot to estimate the number of homeless people in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish: 818 were unsheltered, and 597 were in emergency shelters. Unity's report counted a 15 percent drop from its 2013 snapshot of 2,337 people, and an 83 percent drop from 2007's 11,619 people. In 2013, the New Orleans Mission entered more than 2,500 people into the Homeless Management Information System, a database shared by the Mission, Ozanam Inn and the Salvation Army.

This summer, the city began enforcing a public obstruction ordinance and New Orleans Public Health Department cited public safety and sanitation issues at a “tent city” underneath the Claiborne Avenue overpass. Many people living there were relocated to permanent supportive housing and emergency shelters, while others moved to other parts of the city (and the overpass). The enforcement created a citywide debate and tasked shelters with spreading already-thin resources.


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