First Lady Michelle Obama Joins Mayor Landrieu To Celebrate Progress On Ending Veteran Homelessness
NEW ORLEANS – First Lady Michelle Obama joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu and about 200 leaders from across government, industry and the non-profit sector on Monday to celebrate progress across the country on the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and to recognize New Orleans for becoming the first major city in America to end Veteran homelessness.
The event also marked the fourth anniversary of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative aimed to increase support and opportunities for Veterans.
“It is an honor to host First Lady Michelle Obama to discuss the importance of ending Veteran homelessness,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “In January, New Orleans became the first major city to answer the President and First Lady’s call to end Veteran homelessness, a year earlier than the federal goal. Right now, hundreds of leaders across the nation are taking on the Mayors Challenge, and I am proud that New Orleans is a trailblazer on this important and challenging issue. We know the work of ending Veteran homelessness is never really done. That’s why we 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. This model is being replicated nationwide so that we can end Veteran homelessness in America once and for all.”
The First Lady and Mayor Landrieu were joined on stage by Dylan Tete, an Iraq war Veteran and local homeless Veteran advocate. During the event, the First Lady also announced new resources aimed at assisting communities that have signed on to the Mayors Challenge. She also announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were making available nearly $65 million to help more than 9,300 homeless Veterans find a permanent place to call home. The rental assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.
In June 2014, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady launched the Mayors Challenge 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. Thus far, 432 mayors, seven governors, and 131 other local officials have committed to ending Veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of this 2015.
FULFILLING THE MAYORS CHALLENGE
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 January’s announcement of fulfilling the Mayors Challenge, New Orleans has housed an additional 42 veterans.
COMMITMENT TO ENDING HOMELESSNESS
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.
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.
HOW THE PUBLIC CAN HELP
The public can help the city’s Veterans community by donating gently used furniture, dishes, towels and bed linens to the UNITY warehouse. Those interested in supporting ongoing efforts to end chronic homelessness in New Orleans may contact UNITY of Greater New Orleans at (504) 821-4496 or by visiting unitygno.org.