Can We End Veteran Homelessness? New Orleans Did!

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As of this time last year, there were some 50,000 homeless veterans across this country. With those numbers in mind, some 300 mayors, 6 governors, and 71 other local officials around the country committed themselves and their local constituencies to find housing for all homeless veterans by the end of 2015. At the beginning of 2014, New Orleans identified some 193 homeless veterans in the city. Another 35 were identified over the course of the year.

By the end of 2014, New Orleans had housed 277 homeless veterans, essentially eliminating the problem for the veteran population in their city. The last known homeless veteran in the area was placed in his new digs on Jan. 2, 2015, bringing the total number housed to 278. By doing so, New Orleans became the first entity in the country to accomplish the goal of housing all of its homeless veterans. This is a real ray of hope for homeless veterans and homelessness in general.

Yes, it could be argued that the numbers in New Orleans are relatively small in comparison to the 714 homeless veterans in Chicago, the 1,645 in Los Angeles, and the 3,739 in New York City, but it can also be argued that New Orleans ought to be studied as a model of how this very important effort can be accomplished.

An “all hands on deck” approach relied heavily on a coordinated efforts between local, state, and federal agencies, the private, nonprofit outreach community, and private landlords. This was all coordinated by an umbrella organization called UNITY of Greater New Orleans. An old apartment complex was renovated specifically for the purpose of housing homeless veterans, and it is managed by UNITY. They have also instituted the mechanisms necessary to quickly address the needs of newly homeless veterans, and to place them quickly in housing. If New Orleans can do it, so can others.


New Orleans skyline in the purple twilight

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu expressed the real and most meaningful motivation behind the effort in New Orleans when he said, “We owe our veterans our eternal gratitude for their service to this nation, and making sure that they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation.” It is a matter of reason and logic that having a house, an address, a place to call their own, will go a long way toward restoring the dignity and self-respect of these formerly homeless men and women, but it will also help them to get work, to take charge of their own lives, and become participating members of the society once again.

The Veterans Site wishes to offer its congratulations to the city and the people of New Orleans for caring enough to address this issue so successfully. We hope that your efforts will be copied, and be as successful all around the country.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.