Michelle Obama was the guest of honor last week at Gallier Hall, at a conference attended by a host of city officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, police Superintendent Michael Harrison and members of the New Orleans City Council.
Obama and Jill Biden launched an initiative among U.S. mayors to reduce veteran homelessness in their respective cities by the end of 2015, with President Barack Obama also aiming to end veteran homelessness nationwide. Landrieu says New Orleans — via a partnership with federal, state and local nonprofits — was able to house more than 200 veterans by the end of 2014. The Landrieu administration says another 42 veterans have been housed since January and claims veteran homelessness has been virtually eliminated in New Orleans. Several people have turned down offers to join the program.
"Even one homeless veteran is an outrage," Obama said. "And when we have tens of thousands of veterans who don't have somewhere to go when it rains, that is a stain on our nation."
Since the beginning of the program, nearly 230,000 veterans and their families have been housed nationwide, Obama said. She also announced a new batch of federal housing vouchers available to local and state agencies and a partnership with the private equity firm Blackstone to prepare "welcome home" kits and provide furniture to formerly homeless veterans in their new homes.
"Mayor Landrieu decided to make this a citywide priority," she said. "It's not just an extraordinary achievement for the city, it's a call to action for the entire country."