Earlier this week President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which begins Oct. 1, 2015. The proposal includes strong measures to help communities re-house homeless people and prevent people who are at-risk from becoming homeless. As has become typical over the past several years, however, grave disagreement between the administration and Congress over larger budget issues means a lot of uncertainty for the future of homeless programs. The President’s budget presents a feasible best-case-scenario for progress on homelessness. (The worst-case-scenario is decidedly grimmer.) It’s based on some commonsense assumptions about homelessness.
How Veteran Providers Can Take Advantage of Hypothermia Nights
On particularly cold winter nights, many cities mount aggressive campaigns to encourage vulnerable adults living outdoors to come in for the night. City leaders or nonprofit groups elect to expand their community's shelter capacity, often with church basements or city facilities that aren't designed to be used as sleeping accommodations.
Individuals who seek shelter at these temporary overflow locations aren’t likely to receive much in the way of services, but they won’t be asked many questions either, which is often by design. The idea is to erect as few barriers to shelter as possible so that people will choose to come indoors when weather conditions are particularly dangerous.
And yet, these overflow shelters offer a unique opportunity for service providers to engage particularly vulnerable homeless veterans and others who might typically avoid emergency shelters. With Congress and the Obama administration providing unprecedented new resources to help veterans escape homelessness, this winter is time to take advantage of it.
New Orleans Ends Veteran Homelessness, Sets an Example for the Nation
The city of New Orleans has come a long way in the nine or so years since the surging waters of Hurricane Katrina devastated large swaths of the city and displaced more than 400,000 of its residents. Before Katrina, a little more than 2,000 people experienced homelessness on a given night. By 2007, that number swelled to more than 11,500.
After Hurricane Katrina, homelessness skyrocketed in New Orleans as a result of the destruction of much of the housing stock and the disappearance of jobs. But in the intervening years, through incredible work by leaders in that community and others around the country, the number of people living on the streets, in shelters, and in abandoned buildings has declined significantly.
As of January 2014, the number people in Jefferson and Orleans parishes who experience homelessness on a given night had declined to 1,981 people. The homeless service system in New Orleans has become a national model for street outreach, landlord outreach, targeting of permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and other strategies for fighting homelessness.
Last week the city reached a new and historic milestone when Mayor Landrieu announced that New Orleans had ended homelessness among veterans. Ending veteran homelessness is, of course, a major goal of “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Under Opening Doors, the benchmark date set for ending veteran homelessness is the end of 2015.
Mayor Landrieu Announces New Orleans has Ended Veteran Homelessness
New Orleans Mayor Mitche Landrieu announced today that his city has effectively ended homelessness among veterans by housing 227 veterans in 2014 and ensuring that all veterans who become homeless will be housed within an average of 30 days. This is a big deal. More than anything, it shows that it can be done: communities really can end veteran homelessness.
So you’re probably asking, "How did they do it?" The Alliance released a Community Snapshot today detailing some of the initiatives New Orleans undertook to address the issue. New Orleans' strategy includes aggressive outreach tactics on the street and in shelters, assigning housing navigators to each veteran, and bringing together key partners to ensure that each one had a stake in bringing an end to veteran homelessness.
New Orleans was already making serious progress in reducing homelessness. From 2007 to 2014, the city achieve an 83 percent reduction. And the city's housing providers, led by UNITY of Greater New Orleans, already had a lot of housing knowhow. But it wasn’t until Mayor Landrieu threw his support behind the initiative in July that the pieces really fell into place. As part of the First Lady’s Mayors Challenge, Mayor Landrieu committed his city to ending veteran homelessness – not by the end of 2015, the federal goal, but by the end of 2014.
The Year Ahead in Veteran Homelessness
Fast forward to December 31, 2015, to a the White House Press Room where President Obama is holding a press conference announcing that we have effectively ended homelessness among veterans in our country. This may seem improbable – it is in fact only 360 days away – but we learned in 2014 that it is completely possible.
2015 will be a “nose to the grindstone” year for ending veteran homelessness. There is so much money and so much know-how out in the field right now; we know what works to get veterans permanently housed, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided (and will continue to provide) ample funds to make it happen. There are communities that have already accomplished the goal of ending homelessness among chronic veterans – Houston and Phoenix to name a couple – and as communities across the country fan out for their annual Point-in-Time Counts, I have no doubt that we will be hearing from many, many more.
But we’ll also begin hearing from communities that have effectively ended veteran homelessness. Binghamton, NY has already made the announcement, and New Orleans is queued up to announce it this week (much more on that later in a few days).