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New Orleans First Major City To Eliminate Veteran Homelessness

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday that the city’s fight against veteran homelessness is over after tackling the problem with local non-profits.

What this means is that for any homeless veteran who wants a place to say, temporary housing at minimum is available within a 30-day period. Veterans are placed in permanent housing or temporary housing “with an identified permanent housing placement,” according to the city’s definition for ending homelessness.

“Six months ago on Independence Day, we came together to pay homage to our service members and Veterans who courageously serve our great nation and announced our goal to effectively end Veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of 2014,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“New Orleans is now the first major city in the nation to answer the President and First Lady’s call to end veteran homelessness – and we did so one year earlier than the federal goal. We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation.”

After launching a campaign in July 2014 to rid the streets of veteran homelessness, Landrieu announced that the city beat its initial projected time frame by a year and housed 227 homeless veterans instead of only 193. Landrieu worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs and non-profit groups to encourage 150 active-duty military personnel to help bring in the homeless off the streets and connect them with landlords.

The city used active-duty military to conduct outreach on the streets, which made it easier to track homeless veterans, who frequently move from place to place, making it difficult to come up with an accurate count.

“New Orleans has created a blueprint to end not only Veteran homelessness but all types of homelessness.  The synergy created in New Orleans can be replicated by every community in Louisiana to achieve the same results ensuring every Veteran in Louisiana has a home,” said Nicole Sweazy, housing authority administrator for the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

First Lady Michelle Obama issued a challenge to mayors across the country to meet the 2015 deadline to combat veteran homelessness. More than 300 mayors pledged their support. Many cities, however, are not even close to the goal. Phoenix and Salt Lake City are still behind, but have previously been successful in housing chronically homeless veterans. A veteran is defined as chronically homeless if he’s been homeless for at least a year.

“We had to use the resources that we had, and we had to use them smarter and better then ever,” Martha Kegel, UNITY’s executive director, told The New Orleans Advocate. “We had to figure out how to work together better.”

Next, the city is set to employ the same blueprint to tackle the overall homeless population, in an effort to achieve yet another one of Michelle Obama’s goals: the elimination of all homelessness by 2020.

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