What New Orleans Can Teach Other Cities About Reducing Homelessness

Source: Teresa Wiltz, Stateline, October 15, 2019

….After Katrina, homelessness skyrocketed, from about 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in 2005 to nearly 12,000 in 2007, according to Unity of Greater New Orleans (Unity GNO), a nonprofit designated by the federal government to lead the city’s efforts to provide housing and services to the homeless.

But in 2011, the city launched an all-out offensive on homelessness, slashing the number of homeless residents by more than 80%, from close to 6,700 in 2011 to fewer than 1,200 in 2018. Factoring in the city’s efforts to reduce homelessness since 2007, the overall number has been slashed 90%…..

….City officials did it by fighting homelessness on a variety of fronts: They adopted a “housing first” policy: providing homes and services to New Orleans’ neediest, without requiring that they resolve mental health or substance abuse issues first. They expanded a health care clinic for the homeless and started conducting weekly check-ins to connect more people to counseling and other services.

They designated 200 housing vouchers for veterans and set aside 55 units for them in a converted convent. They successfully lobbied Congress for 3,000 extra housing vouchers in 2008. And last year, the city opened a 100-bed, “low-barrier” shelter where people don’t have to be sober to be admitted.

In tackling the problem, the city relied almost exclusively on federal funds, according to Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA, a partnership of city officials, homeless advocates and dozens of nonprofits and public and private organizations…..