New Orleans First Major City To End Veteran Homelessness, One Year Earlier Than Federal Goal

NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that New Orleans is the first major city in the nation to end homelessness among Veterans as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Members of the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness as well as Veterans, service members, military leaders, national homelessness advocates and partners from the federal government joined Landrieu at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans Wednesday to announce and celebrate the city’s historic milestone.

         “Six months ago on Independence Day, we came together to pay homage to our service members and Veterans who courageously serve our great nation and announced our goal to effectively end Veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of 2014,” Mayor Landrieu said. “I am honored and very pleased to report that we have housed 227 Veterans, exceeding our goal of 193, thanks to the hard work of our committed partners. New Orleans is now the first major city in the nation to answer the President and First Lady’s call to end veteran homelessness – and we did so one year earlier than the federal goal. We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation.”

         The ambitious effort began in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which challenged communities to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. To date, 312 mayors, six governors, and 71 other county or city officials from across the United States have accepted the challenge.

         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 has now permanently housed 227 homeless Veterans in New Orleans.

         “Veteran homelessness is an important and challenging issue, and we are very proud of our accomplishment in New Orleans, but the work of ending Veteran homelessness is never really done,” said Mayor Landrieu. “That’s why we have also 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. I hope our model here in New Orleans can be replicated nationwide so that we can end Veteran homelessness in America once and for all.”

         “I want to congratulate Mayor Landrieu and the entire City of New Orleans for turning its commitment to end Veteran homelessness into a reality,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “As one of the first cities to achieve this noble goal, New Orleans is helping lead a national campaign to make certain that these brave Americans have a place to call home. At HUD, we stand ready to assist in bringing this kind of progress to cities across the country, fulfilling our commitment to all those who served our country so courageously.”

         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.

         “To be able to give so many homeless Veterans a forever home – most of them disabled and a quarter of them elderly – in such a short period of time was extremely challenging but incredibly exhilarating for all of the many partners in this effort,” Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans, said. “That so many Veterans who have risked their lives to serve our country are left homeless, especially in their later years, shocks the conscience. To bring them home, once and for all, has been very rewarding. We are very grateful to the Mayor for his leadership, which made possible this milestone achievement for New Orleans and for the whole nation by providing the impetus to overcome the many complex barriers to housing these vulnerable Veterans. We are very grateful too to the VA and all of our nonprofit, government, and philanthropic partners for working night and day to right this wrong.”

         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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