Health & Homelessness

An Overview on Homelessness

Homelessness is a public health issue. Living on the street, especially long-term, can deteriorate a person’s mental and physical health or worsen conditions that already exist. Homeless individuals are at a higher risk of poor nutrition, drug addiction, preventable disease, violence and premature death. Homelessness is also a nation-wide issue that must be addressed with national solutions such as affordable housing and healthcare, as well as a better infrastructure for mental health.

This webpage contains a summary of New Orleans Health Department homeless initiatives, commonly asked questions, an introduction to UNITY and the Continuum of Care (CoC), and resources for those experiencing homelessness.

To learn more about this topic, you can read this article on the relationship between health and homelessness. 

Homelessness in New Orleans 

Nationally, people who are homeless are counted every year in January through a process called the Point In Time (PIT). UNITY of Greater New Orleans is responsible for conducting the PIT Count in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. In January 2021, there were 2,131 homeless persons in Louisiana and 560 homeless persons in Orleans and Jefferson Parish*.

Compared to other cities in the country, New Orleans has a much lower rate of homelessness. This is mainly due to the city’s consistent efforts in reducing homelessness by 90 percent since 2007 when our homeless population was at its highest. However, there is more that needs to be done. In 2020, New Orleans’ homeless population grew for the first time in more than a decade. Housing and healthcare are becoming increasingly expensive while local wages remain stagnant. More people struggle to maintain housing, and those already unhoused are at greater risk of poor health, disease, and violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has further shown how crucial housing is, not only for a person’s health, but for the health of the community. Ending homelessness would be a big step towards better individual and community health.

*Unsheltered homeless persons are not included in these numbers. In 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD gave all CoCs the option to either exclude or give partial data for the unsheltered homeless population if they couldn’t provide completed data. In 2020, the last year that all CoCs provided completed data, there were 3,173 homeless persons in Louisiana and 1,314 homeless persons in Orleans and Jefferson Parish. In 2022, the New Orleans Health Department assisted UNITY in its annual PIT Count, and new data will be released later in the year.