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Mayor to address vet homelessness in New Orleans this week

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  Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials gave an exhaustive recap of the administration's claimed 2014 successes, from tax revenue increases and public safety programs to New Orleans' increasing national profile.

  Missing, however, were the results of an ambitious goal to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of the year. When questioned, Landrieu said those results would be announced this week.

  In December, homeless advocacy group Unity of Greater New Orleans announced that nearly 200 homeless veterans have been moved into permanent housing. Unity also opened Sacred Heart Apartments on Canal Street, where 11 chronically homeless people 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 amen-ities that include a computer lab and courtyard areas. The renovated 87,505-square-foot facility formerly was a nursing home, school and convent. Half of its 109 units will be for mixed-income tenants who aren't homeless, and 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" not only to eliminate veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of the year, but also 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.

  "We made a commitment to be the first city in America that did it," Landrieu told reporters last week.

  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.

  Last summer, the city began enforcing a public obstruction ordinance, and the 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 allocating already-thin resources.

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