City Receives $800K Grant To Provide Housing, Mental Health Services To New Orleans’ Homeless

NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the New Orleans Health Department and the Office of Community Development in partnership with UNITY of Greater New Orleans, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and Metropolitan Human Services District (MHSD) announced that the City of New Orleans has received an $800,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide housing and mental health services to the city’s homeless population. City reps said the grant will support the Health Department’s newly-developed New Orleans Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which will provide permanent supportive housing services, mental health and substance abuse treatment and recovery services, assistance in obtaining Medicaid and other benefits for 120 individuals who are chronically homeless and another 20 vulnerable homeless families with children.

         "The City of New Orleans is committed to helping our homeless residents,” Mayor Landrieu said. “The City and over 60 homelessness service providers that make up the Continuum of Care are constantly conducting outreach and this grant will allow us to continue to make a real difference in lives of our most vulnerable. This is yet another example of us working to connect homeless individuals and families with the essential services they need to put them back on the path towards stable, permanent housing and prosperity."

         City reps said the purpose of the New Orleans Equity and Inclusion Initiative is to end chronic homelessness and family homelessness in New Orleans and reduce the inequities in access to and use of mental health and substance abuse recovery support services for the homeless population. The City and its partners are working to meet their goals of ending chronic homelessness for people with disabilities by July 4, 2017, and ending family homelessness by Thanksgiving 2016. This initiative will play a significant role in meeting those goals.

         City reps said sixty-five percent of New Orleans’ chronic homeless population does not have health insurance. This initiative aims to ensure that healthcare services, including the state’s recently-expanded Medicaid program, are accessible to this difficult-to-reach population.

         “We have been focused on improving the quality of life for all New Orleanians, across the board, particularly for the most vulnerable in our community,” said Director of Health Charlotte Parent. “This program will not only ensure that some of our homeless population receive stable housing, but also help them to overcome the serious behavioral health issues that so many face.”

         Ellen Lee, Director of the City’s Office of Community Development, said, “I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to SAMHSA for selecting the City of New Orleans for this critical grant funding. We are working every day to ensure that all New Orleanians have the opportunity to participate in the progress the city is making. This funding will help us to make sure that some of our most overlooked residents are given the opportunity to thrive.”

         Gregg Fortner, Executive Director of HANO, said, “HANO is happy to be included in the many partnerships that deliver vital services to the City of New Orleans in meeting our affordable housing needs.  This grant is another example of our commitment to serve our most vulnerable populations.”

         Metropolitan Human Services District (MHSD) Executive Director & Medical Director Rochelle Head-Dunham, MD, said, “This is exactly the type of federal support our city needs and the type of partnerships that MHSD seeks in order to serve the populations that depend on us the most. Fundamental basic needs like housing and employment must be addressed if we are ever to really help heal our city.”

         In 2011, the City announced a Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness and created the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness to oversee its implementation. As part of its comprehensive plan to end homelessness, the City has launched a series of initiatives and has pledged to work with 63 partner agencies and service providers that make up the Continuum of Care and to collaborate with HUD, VA and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).

         In 2013, New Orleans reached another milestone when the Community Resource and Referral Center opened in the local VA hospital. The Community Resource and Referral Center serves as a day shelter for the homeless and connects homeless Veterans to case managers and services. The center houses multiple service providers to foster synergy, and it is the first and only resource and referral center in the nation that provides services to Veterans as well as non-veterans.

         The City also committed HOME funds in 2013 to pay for rental assistance and develop permanent supportive housing for persons who are homeless, and did so in collaboration with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, VA, Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the Downtown Development District. HUD has selected this initiative as one of four National Best Practices Models for ending homelessness.

         Since 2010, according to UNITY of Greater New Orleans’ Annual Point In Time survey, the homeless population in New Orleans has been reduced by 65 percent, from nearly 5,000 homeless people on our streets to now less than 1,700 on any given night, which is below pre-Katrina levels.

         In June 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and New Orleans was among the first cities to sign up. On July 4, 2014, Mayor Landrieu accepted the Mayors Challenge at an event at The National World War II Museum announcing New Orleans’ goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2014, a year ahead of the federal goal. On January 7, 2015, Mayor Landrieu announced New Orleans’ success as the first major city to meet the challenge and end Veteran homelessness.

         City reps said the City of New Orleans defines ending Veteran homelessness as ensuring every homeless Veteran who can be located is placed in permanent housing or in temporary housing with an identified permanent housing placement.

         To fulfill the Mayors Challenge, the City partnered with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, UNITY of Greater New Orleans, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), the State Office of Community Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness (NOICH). The coalition implemented a local strategy to ensure every Veteran in New Orleans had access to permanent housing and the supportive services they need to sustain their housing status and stay off the street.

         As part of the Mayors Challenge, HANO recruited landlords to provide apartments for homeless Veterans. This pipeline, coupled with UNITY HousingLink quickly connected willing landlords to homeless Veterans in need of housing. Federal resources, including Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), Continuum of Care Permanent Supportive Housing (CoC PSH), Rapid Rehousing (RR), and Housing Choice vouchers, were brought together to ensure the initiative’s sustainability.

         To enhance ongoing outreach on the streets and connect Veterans with service providers, the City coordinated with local active duty military and Veterans groups through the Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee. Over several months, about 150 local active duty military and Veterans conducted five Veteran homeless outreach nights trying to locate homeless Veterans and get them off the streets. In addition, these volunteers helped move formerly homeless Veterans into their new homes. This extensive outreach effort created important connections between homeless Veterans and their fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms.

         According to the HUD 2014 Homeless Point in Time Survey conducted by UNITY of Greater New Orleans, 193 individuals were counted to be homeless Veterans in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. As a part of the Mayors Challenge, Mayor Landrieu put together a coalition of nonprofits, homeless service providers, U.S. service members and Veterans, and federal, state, and local agencies – a coalition that permanently housed 227 homeless Veterans in New Orleans. Since the January 2015 announcement of fulfilling the Mayors Challenge, New Orleans has housed an additional nearly 200 veterans bringing the total number to well over 400.

         Before accepting the Mayors Challenge, the City of New Orleans had already achieved outstanding results on the local level with Veterans’ homelessness, which had dropped 66 percent from 2012 to 2014. In November 2014, the National Alliance to End Homelessness recognized New Orleans for its efforts in helping this vulnerable community as part of its Never Another Homeless Veteran initiative. These results are significant, particularly in a community where Veteran homelessness skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina.

         The public can help the city’s Veterans community by donating gently used furniture, dishes, towels and bed linens to the UNITY warehouse.

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