NEW ORLEANS, LA— Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined United States Senator Mary Landrieu, members of the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness, and military leaders and veterans at The National World War II Museum to commemorate Independence Day and announce the City of New Orleans’ drive to be the first city in the nation to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2014. In June, Mayor Landrieu participated in a panel discussion at the White House with other mayors from across the country where they shared and discussed successful strategies which have reduced veteran homelessness. At the event First Lady Michelle Obama and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness which aims to eliminate veteran homelessness in American in 2015.
“On this Fourth of July, we have come together to pay homage to the veterans who have courageously served our great nation with honor and distinction and announce our goal to eliminate veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of this year,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “Veteran homelessness is an issue that we are all too familiar with and today, we are coming together to renew our commitment to this issue. On any given night, there are over 190 homeless veterans living on our streets. We are committing ourselves to serving our warriors and help them find homes.”
Mayor Landrieu added, “Through the hard work of so many; New Orleans is now nationally recognized as a model for our efforts in combating homelessness but there is always more that can be done. We have accepted the Mayors Challenge because we know we can be the first city in the nation to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of this year.”
The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is part of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative aimed to increase support and opportunities for veterans.
"As we gather together on the Fourth of July, we can honor and celebrate the greatness of our country by keeping the promises we have made to our veterans. One of those promises is that no man or woman who has served our country should be without a roof over his or her head," United States Senator Mary Landrieu said. "Working together we have already made great progress toward reducing veteran homelessness, but we must do more. I'm proud to partner with Mayor Landrieu in announcing a plan to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The significant federal investments we have made in the Greater New Orleans area will make this goal achievable. I look forward to completing this important mission."
Major General David Mize USMC ret, Chairman of the Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee, said, “The Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee is very excited to be part of the team that the Mayor has assembled to end homelessness for veterans in the New Orleans area. This is a mission that we have been supporting for a while, but we have never before had such a unified, committed, and funded consortium of federal, local government, non-profit and private sector organizations working this problem. With this team, the Mayor’s aggressive goal of ending veterans’ homelessness in New Orleans by the end of 2014 is very possible.”
Dr. Stephanie Repasky, Associate Director of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System said, “VA is committed to ending Veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of this year. Through our partnerships with the city of New Orleans and many non-profit organizations, we are well on the way. We can do this through innovative programs such as our Community Resource and Referral Center, that helps Veterans and other homeless citizens obtain housing, work opportunities, medical care and much more.”
“The nonprofit service provider community is honored and excited to partner with the Mayor on this vital initiative,” said Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans, a collaborative of 63 organizations providing housing and services to the homeless. “Because of the Mayor’s leadership, and the participation of all those rallying around the goal he has set, we are confident of victory. We will do all in our power to make sure that by the end of the year, all the homeless veterans on the master list being compiled are either in permanent housing or housed in a rehab program where the eventual outcome will be permanent housing. We encourage everyone in the community to do what they can to participate in making New Orleans the first city in America to end veteran homelessness.”
William Detweiler, Past National Commander of The American Legion said, “The veterans’ service organizations appreciate the leadership of the Mayor in bringing the many agencies who want to help our homeless veterans together. Together we can help these deserving veterans to enjoy the freedoms and life that they have fought to preserve.”
The City of New Orleans has already achieved outstanding results on the local level: veterans’ homelessness is down 66% since 2012, and the City is well on its way to ending veterans’ homelessness by 2015. The results are significant, particularly in a community where homelessness skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina. However, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made ending veterans’ homelessness a top priority, and in partnership with the Obama Administration, the state and non-profits, the City of New Orleans has found a way.
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. Together with 63 partner agencies and service providers that make up the Continuum of Care and in collaboration with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the United States Inter-Council on Homelessness (USICH), the City has launched a series of successful initiatives as part of its comprehensive plan to end homelessness.
Through the 100 Day Rapid Results Boot Camp, the New Orleans team aimed to make a real impact, real fast. The goal was to house 100 veterans in 100 days, which required streamlining old processes and collaborating like never before. With focus and coordination, the New Orleans team surpassed its ambitious goal - housing 120 Veterans in 100 days.
In 2013, the 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. To create synergy, the center houses multiple service providers, and it is the first and only resource and referral center in the nation that provides services to veterans as well as non-veterans.
Also in 2013, the City committed HOME funds in collaboration with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, VA, Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the Downtown Development District to pay for rental assistance and develop permanent supportive housing for persons who are homeless. This initiative has been selected by HUD as one of four National Best Practices Models for ending homelessness.
To fulfill the Mayors Challenge, New Orleans will continue to work with HUD, the VA, and USICH, and the National League of Cities to leverage federal resources and implement a local strategy to make sure every veteran in the community has access to permanent and stable housing and the supportive services they need to stay off the street. The City is coordinating with local active duty military and veterans groups through the Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee to develop new outreach services to better connect with homeless veterans with service providers ready to assist.
The public can help 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 www.unitygno.org.
Since 2010, when the Federal government launched Opening Doors, a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, there has been a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans nationally. This reduction has been achieved through a partnership between the Obama Administration, local governments, non-profits, and the private sector. Through this final push to leverage momentum and strengthen our commitment, the goal of ending veteran homelessness in America is within reach.
Click here to learn more about resources available for local veterans experiencing homelessness