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Major U.S. City To Eliminate Homelessness Among Veterans In the Next 3 Weeks

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Good job, New Orleans! Hoping that Santa Clara county can build more apartments soon!

A few thoughts:

1. The main thing preventing us from ending homelessness is insufficient affordable housing.

While New Orleans won’t be the first city to effectively end veteran homelessness – bothPhoenix and Salt Lake City have claimed they have housed all of their chronically homeless veterans – it would likely be the most blighted city to meet the goal. Other cities haven’t been affected by devastating storms like Katrina, which destroyed much of the city’s affordable housing and caused rents in New Orleans to increase 45 percent since 2005.

Phoenix followed the Housing First strategy in which it provided homeless veterans with a home before worrying about other issues like mental illness and addiction. The model works best in cities where there is cheap land on which to build.


After Katrina, homelessness nearly doubled in the city even though only 80 percent of the homeless population returned after the storm. In January 2007, the first count conducted after the storm, there were 11,619 people living on the streets, in abandoned buildings or emergency shelters. For the first time in 2014, that number is back to pre-Katrina levels.

While next August will mark the ten-year anniversary of the storm, White — and many other New Orleans residents who spoke with ThinkProgress — said that the city still hasn’t fully recovered. The number of rental units has been drastically reduced, driving rents higher, and the city’s healthcare and supportive services infrastructure still has not returned to normal. Fifty-five percent of Katrina survivors have suffered from depression or post-traumatic stress.

2. New Orleans worked to reach this goal a year before the nation does:

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in August 2005, more than 455,000 people were displaced from New Orleans and neighboring parishes and 70 percent of housing in the city was damaged.

Martha Kegel, the director of UNITY who has previously worked as an attorney, reporter and the director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said she has not slept a full night since the city decided to end veterans’ homelessness a year before the national goal. In between meetings at UNITY’s office, Kegel told ThinkProgress she was immediately on-board with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to prioritize the housing of homeless veterans.

3. The federal initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015 is just part of a larger push to eliminate homelessness overall by 2020.

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