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.
And they did it. Mayor Landrieu didn’t just take the Challenge and leave the work to others; he dove in and made things happen in a big way. Drawing on his political capital, he was able to get housing authorities committed to providing units, local Veteran Service Organizations and military bases donating and volunteering their time, and bring each key partner—the Mayor’s Office, the Continuum, and the local VA Medical Center to name a few—to the table to set goals, make game plans, and work together.
There are so many people who deserve serious accolades for this amazing job well done – UNITY, the local Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, officials and staff working on homeless policy in the Mayor’s office, outreach workers, active duty volunteers, and the list goes on… But the biggest lesson we can take away from New Orleans is this: real commitment to solve the problem of veteran homelessness from high-ranking officials can lead to real results.
Whether your Mayor has signed up for the First Lady’s Challenge or not, get them involved, get them active, and get people together to make things happen. If New Orleans can do it, so can your community.