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New Orleans’ homelessness is overwhelming, and likely will get much worse if planned cuts to the city’s mental health services are implemented, but the good news is that the UNITY collaborative of agencies is winning praise for our daily work to re-house the homeless!
Click Here to read the full article on Nola.com.
Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS — Homelessness is on the rise across the country, with the number of homeless kids up by 33 percent over the last three years.
Those statistics are part of a study released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, which also ranks Louisiana as the third worst state when it comes to homeless kids.
“Four of them share this room and I would love to get them some bunkbeds and things like that for their room,” said Haley, giving a tour of her unfurnished new home. Right now, air mattresses serve as beds.
Four days ago, life was very different for this family. They had no roof over their head and no place to call home.
“A lot of my friends they didn’t even know I was homeless. I didn’t want to put that burden on them and I knew I had to stand up for myself,” said Haley.
The entire seven-member family was living in an Isuzu Trooper with their dog, Angel.
“My eldest daughter slept in the front with me and the rest of them slept in the back,” said Haley, describing the close quarters.
Her daughter Willnika remembers what it was like sleeping next to her brothers and sisters in the cramped SUV for almost two months.
“It was hot, and I was thirsty and hungry,” said Willnika.
Her mother said she left an abusive relationship in Dallas and moved back home to New Orleans.
However, Haley said she was greeted by skyrocketing rental prices, one of the after effects of Hurricane Katrina. Unable to pay $1000 a month in rent, Haley said she was forced to move her family onto the street.
“I told them, we’re sleeping in the car. We’re homeless, and we’ve gotta keep faith in God,” said Haley.
“We’re finding everyone from various walks of life who are now experiencing homelessness,” said Katy Quigley with UNITY of Greater New Orleans.
The agency says the Haley family is just a small piece of a bigger homelessness puzzle that unfortunately includes kids.
“It’s so sad to get calls from social workers every day talking about families who are in their schools, who don’t have a place to sleep that night or are getting evicted,” said Quigley.
“Now I feel better. We’ve got stuff to eat, and we got water and juice,” said Willnika about moving into a house.
As for Haley and her young kids, turning to UNITY for help now means this mom can breathe a sigh of relief just in time for the holidays.
“Its a blessing because its like really my first happy Christmas. My children don’t have toys or anything but I thank God for being in a home,” added Haley who has plans to start nursing school in January.
The National Center On Family Homelessness estimates that 1 in every 45 American kids are homeless.
UNITY of Greater New Orleans says there were 3,000 homeless kids in the metro area in 2010.
“People think because you dress a certain way or act a certain way, you don’t be homeless, but truly you be homeless,” said Natasia Haley, who spent Tuesday night reading with her kids after they arrived home from school.View Post
And he didnt move into the White House. He moved into homelessness.
This Andrew Jackson was honorably discharged as an Army Private after Vietnam. He was awarded four medals in his service to our country.
He returned home after the horror of war.
Already stricken with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in the service, Mr. Jackson later endured another set of horrors which worsened his condition – his parents drowned in their family home in New Orleans East as a result of the levee failures that followed Hurricane Katrina.
The UNITY Outreach Team found Mr. Jackson living in the destroyed home where his parents tragically died. He was 61 years old, suffering from severe disabilities, and had lived there for years with no lights, water or heat. During those years, he suffered a heart attack, but he still continued to live in subhuman conditions, suffering from further trauma to his already fragile emotional health.
Last year, just before Christmas, UNITY placed Mr. Jackson in his new apartment through a program for homeless people with disabilities. The services and supports he receives through the program help him remain stably and permanently housed.
Now that he is no longer homeless, Mr. Jackson is doing well. He reads his bible, meditates, and socializes with his neighbors. His health has improved, he has friends, and he has the opportunity to starte a life free from the trauma of homelessness, while he continues to heal from the many traumas he has already endured with the ongoing support of UNITY and case managers through UNITY’s partner agencies.
Mr. Jackson’s story is one of many tragedies and injustices that UNITY encounters on a daily basis. Throughout our city on any given night, more than 9,000 people are living with the pain of homelessness.
UNITY works every day to end homelessness for people like Mr. Jackson. Some are veterans. Some are elderly. Some are mothers with young children. All are vulnerable and in need of our help. Will you join us today in creating an end to homelessness for others like Mr. Jackson?
UNITY works to make sure that our neighbors like Mr. Jackson will never know the pain of homelessness again. Your gift today can help us serve many more people who are homeless right now. Click here to make a donation.View Post
UNITY of Greater New Orleans celebrates the release of Mayor Landrieu’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which UNITY, by virtue of its longstanding role as lead agency for the homeless Continuum of Care and administrator of collaborative grants for permanent and transitional housing and services, will play a large role in helping to implement. At its first meeting with the new administration last year, UNITY requested the creation of a new city plan to end homelessness, as the previous one had been written before Hurricane Katrina caused an unprecedented crisis of homelessness and scarcity of affordable housing and mental health services. The plan released Nov. 28, 2011 has been vetted by national experts at HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, is aligned with a new federal plan to end homelessness adopted last year, and is the culmination of a months-long planning process by the newly established Homeless Services Working Group appointed by the Mayor. Federal Judge Jay Zainey and UNITY board member Jade Brown-Russell co-chaired the Working Group, while UNITY Board Chair Luis Zervigon and Executive Director Martha Kegel served on the Executive Committee. Dozens of UNITY member agencies participated in the planning process, as did members of the business community, university professors, affordable housing developers, and homeless persons.
Mayor Landrieu states of the plan, “Unlike any other city in America, residents of New Orleans know what it is like to be without a home,” said Mayor Landrieu. “After Hurricane Katrina, many who never thought they would ever be homeless were suddenly left with nothing. Unfortunately, on any given night, approximately 6,500 New Orleans residents are without a home including unsheltered individuals, youth and families. This is an urgent issue that demands immediate attention. I’d like to thank our federal partners and our local working group members for coming together to create a workable plan to address this challenge. This Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in the City of New Orleans will lead to an increase in available resources, and will improve coordination and collaboration.”View Post
Contributor: FOX8LIVE.COM STAFF Email: email@example.com
Print Story Published: 11/28 9:48 pm
Share Updated: 11/28 11:26 pm
New Orleans — On the day New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and UNITY of Greater New Orleans announced a 10-year plan to end homelessness, 25-year-old mother of three small children Trineshea Melton said she has been living the homeless nightmare since returning to New Orleans, post-Katrina.
“I should’ve stayed in Memphis. At least I had a house there, everything I needed. Now I’m asking why,” Melton said.
Melton works and goes to school. She said she and her children were recently evicted. With threats of freezing temperatures looming, she needs shelter for her family. But the city’s shelters are filled to capacity and she has no money.
“Maybe we’ll just sleep in the car. Thankfully I have gas. It’s just so hard because I work and go to school, I do my best with everything I do to take care of my children. Rent is just so expensive and money is so low,” Melton explained.
Salvation Army Director of Social Services Karen Jackson says her organization offers three free nights, but can only house 210 people. “We try to take as many people as we can. We currently are full. However, we try to make space for additional people if we do have the space. All the facilities for women and children are full,” she said.
UNITY Executive Director Martha Kegel said over 50,000 units of affordable housing were destroyed by Katrina. As a result, New Orleans now has one of the largest populations of unsheltered homeless in the nation.
“On any given night in New Orleans, there are over 5200 unsheltered people, mostly living in abandoned buildings but really living in every neighborhood,” Kegel said.
Kegel said the number of homeless doubled after Katrina. “Why this plan is so needed now is because we’re seeing an end to Katrina funds, we’re seeing an end to federal stimulus funds that were helping with the situation by providing short-term rent assistance for example,” she explained.
This effort has to be collaborative, according to Kegel. She said government, the faith-based community, the business sector, non-profits, and private citizens must work together in order to beat homelessness for good.
“We’re gonna need churches to help with shelter, we’re gonna need regular everyday citizens to help with furnishings, dishes, plates, things that homeless people need to get started in a new apartment,” she said.
For Melton the mayor’s long-term goals leave little comfort. “The next ten years, why can’t we do it now? Why do we have to wait?” Melton asked.
Kegel said they have a solution, but homelessness can’t be solved overnight. “Housing is the solution. Permanent housing, coupled with services targeted to that person’s needs,” she said.View Post
By Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune
The laid-off nursing assistant with two small children needs only a few months’ rent to stave off homelessness. The mentally ill man who lived with his sister before Hurricane Katrina may require an apartment for the rest of his life, plus someone to check in on him. The 18-year-old who aged out of the state’s foster system shows promise but needs a mentor, job training and stable housing. The city of New Orleans wants to find ways to address the needs, however wide-ranging, of each of these homeless people through a 10-year “plan to end homelessness” that Mayor Mitch Landrieu will announce today.
The 34-page plan is a road map for how the city will address its astronomical homeless population, which more than doubled in the years after Hurricane Katrina and now stands at approximately 6,500, one of the highest in the nation in sheer numbers despite the city’s modest size.
The planning process started last summer after Landrieu hired the city’s first “homelessness czar,” Stacy Horn-Koch. It coupled the work of local panels of homeless advocates, neighborhood leaders and businesspeople with input from national experts. Homeless advocates from other cities brought ideas that are working elsewhere.
Other cities have had success with carefully run “low-barrier” shelters that don’t turn away people who arrive drunk or high or with untreated mental illness. The idea is simply to earn the trust of “service-resistant” homeless people who have learned to keep their guard up. Once they drop their guard, advocates can engage them in a more straightforward way, guiding them to services and housing.
The plan’s other new initiatives include a public-private Homeless Trust through the Greater New Orleans Foundation to finance “innovative and bold initiatives” to serve the city’s homeless, a 24-hour homeless-service center housed at the now-shuttered VA hospital building, and a new partnership between the city and the Downtown Development District to finance street outreach to clear high-traffic areas downtown.
The city also will add nearly 3,000 permanent-housing beds to its current stock along with a few hundred additional shelter beds. And its Office of Community Development will give preferences in its affordable-housing work to developers who commit to serving homeless constituents.
Hundreds of other cities and states have created similar plans to end homelessness, and the federal government released its own plan last year. But it’s been six years since New Orleans wrote such a plan. The result “helps to galvanize the entire community around the tragedy of homelessness, ” said Martha Kegel, who heads up UNITY of Greater New Orleans, a continuum of 60 social-services agencies that work with the homeless.
First, they need a home
Even 25 years ago, few would have broached the idea of ending homelessness. Administrators who ran soup kitchens and shelters tried to keep people comfortable, but they believed that people needed to be “housing-ready” before they could move into their own places, that alcoholics needed to first get sober and mentally ill people needed to take medication regularly. Some shelters still operate that way.
But a few decades ago, researcher Dennis Culhane found that the “chronically homeless,” who have often lived for years on the streets, make up only 10 percent of the homeless population but consume the bulk of services. Culhane, now the head of a University of Pennsylvania social-service lab, found that the chronically homeless ran up annual public-service bills topping $42,000 as they cycled through emergency rooms, jails, courts, hospitals and shelters.
For about $1,000 more, Culhane estimated, the city could place these vulnerable people into government-subsidized apartments, combined with intensive social services. Soon other ground-breaking work created a successful template for what’s now called “Housing First,” which moves even the most ill, vulnerable homeless people into permanent housing.
New Orleans’ proportion of chronically homeless is twice that of other cities, and those are the people who often are seen camped out in public areas. But since Katrina, UNITY agencies and the city have made a significant dent in that population by housing more than 2,000 people who had previously set up bedrolls in the city’s abandoned buildings and within large squalid camps in Duncan Plaza, underneath Interstate 10 at Canal Street and, most recently, under the Pontchartrain Expressway.
Most advocates and government officials now believe that what the homeless most need is housing. Other problems, no matter how large, are best addressed once someone has a roof over his head. “Housing, and the availability of affordable housing, is the ultimate solution to homelessness, ” the city’s plan declares.
Family homelessness has been increasing in recent years, and so the city’s plan, like the federal plan it mirrors, specifies steps to address that growing group, a casualty of the national recession.
“The chronic homeless are basically recession-proof,” said Don Thompson, who runs the Harry Tompson Center for the homeless at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Tulane Avenue. “But any uptick you see in families is almost always going to be due to the economy.”
Nationally, at some point during each year, up to 10 percent of all poor people become homeless, according to the Urban Institute. That revolving door may be busier in New Orleans because of its high poverty rate.
One of the challenges acknowledged by the city’s plan is tracking people and coordinating those resources to better combat homelessness at its earlier stages — before, as Horn-Koch says, they become the “most vulnerable.”
Horn-Koch previously led Covenant House New Orleans, a facility for homeless youth, where she saw children delivered by state foster-care workers days before their 18th birthday, when the state is no longer responsible for their care. So she knows first-hand the need for the plan’s emphasis on “discharge planning,” which ensures that people leaving hospitals, prisons and foster care exit to a stable home, not the streets. Other cities have found that 60 percent of those in homeless shelters came directly from some sort of institution: a hospital or the foster and correctional systems.
In recent years, New Orleans has made significant inroads into homelessness, using $9 million of federal stimulus money along with a special set-aside from Road Home money designed to help low-wage families struggling to pay high post-Katrina rents. Between the two pots of money, nearly 4,000 households, most of them working-poor families, were able to stay in their homes because the city helped them pay a few months’ rent, a damage deposit or light bill.
Although that money is spent, the city plan predicts it will continue its homeless-prevention work, helping an average of 600 families a year. How it will be financed is unclear. Without the prevention money, the current system is largely focused on very ill, chronically homeless people.
UNITY street-outreach workers use a questionnaire that tests for a range of high-risk factors. Using scores from the “vulnerability index,” the agency ranks everyone. People who are most likely to die without housing receive the highest priority for the agency’s limited supply of government-subsidized housing accompanied by ongoing social services.
But a growing number of people who have lived on the streets of New Orleans for more than a year are not severely disabled and as a result “will never score high enough on the vulnerability index” to get housed, Horn-Koch said. And without a stable place to sleep and bathe, it’s nearly impossible for even able-bodied people to find work, she said. As a result, some will stay homeless for too long, becoming more ill and dysfunctional.
Thompson said that he, too, believes an expansion of services makes sense if the ultimate goal is to end all homelessness. He’s hopeful about the new plan, but he also worries that, without considerably expanded resources, the vision could become a system that elbows out some of the most ill.
Katy Reckdahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3396.View Post
A little over six years ago, as our city was destroyed by flood, most New Orleanians experienced homelessness. Those of us who were lucky rebuilt our lives piece by piece, heartened by the kindness and generosity of strangers.
We now have the unique opportunity to pay that generosity forward and help those most in need of rebuilding their lives!
Over the past year, UNITY and its member organizations have rescued many homeless persons who were living in the Calliope homeless camp in Central City New Orleans. UNITY has already placed more than 65 camp residents in permanent housing and we’re working to place another 70 persons as quickly as possible. Although their struggle to survive is no longer visible, they desperately need our support to begin a new life. With your help, we can make sure they have the basics to get started in their new apartments – a bed, a table, dishes, cleaning supplies – and food to sustain them while they get back on their feet.
UNITY is working day and night to permanently end the homelessness of the people who lived in the camp. People like Lamar…a young man with AIDS and Cerebral Palsy whose extreme disabilities have caused his homelessness.
We know from experience that ending homelessness requires a community-wide effort. With your help, in an eight month period from 2007-2008, we successfully housed 452 persons from two-large scale homeless camps in downtown New Orleans. The vast majority of those persons remain housed today. Together, we transformed lives and we have the opportunity to do so again.
We need you to help today by providing food and water, as well as basic supplies for their new home — simple necessities like a new bed, linens, and simple housewares.
For more information, please contact UNITY at (504) 821-4496. You can also donate by clicking here.
Thank you for your support!View Post
New Orleans Mission Presents ‘Make A Move’ Event
NEW ORLEANS — Hundreds of homeless people in New Orleans received free assistance from various providers Wednesday to help them get back on their feet.
New Orleans Mission launched “Make A Move,” the largest public assistance event for the homeless in New Orleans’ history on Wednesday. Organizers said the program is about the community getting together and offering a broad range of services, including medical checkups, foot care, legal services, grooming and employment assistance for struggling individuals.
“The homeless here is not necessarily the people you see under bridges or have raggedy cloths. It could be a friend (or) a neighbor that’s just struggling. This event was not just about helping the homeless, but people that just need a hand up not a hand out,” said organizer Sean Walker.
Organizers said the goal of make a move was to help homeless and struggling individuals by providing the resources they need to jump-start their lives and to allow them to walk out the Convention Center with a new sense of hope and their heads held high.
Loretta Smith, of the New Orleans Mission, said, “This was about the community making a move, about us banding together. This is a city problem, not a New Orleans Mission problem. It’s not a unity problem; it’s a city problem.”
Walker said about 1,000 people have participated in “Make A Move.”
“We’ve had great support from service providers and volunteers. They’ve been connecting one on one with everybody and so, we feel like we’ve done a lot of good in a short amount of time,” Walker said.
All the volunteers and the community organizations that are providing services said they are hoping they can help provide a brighter tomorrow.View Post
We are happy to announce that one of UNITY’s clients has been featured on the HUD Homeless Resource Exchange website as a ‘promising practice and success story’ of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP). The client, Mr. B, affectionately called Silver Man because of the silver paint he dons as a street performer in the French Quarter, had been homeless for over a year when he was found living in an abandoned building by the UNITY Outreach Team. Mr. B. is now stably housed and is receiving services from his case manager, Ali Salinas, to help him become self-sufficient and remain in housing.
The HPRP Program is a Stimulus Act program that has worked to prevent and end homelessness for over 1 million people across the country since its inception in 2009. Locally, over 1,700 homeless or at-risk families or individuals have received short-term rent assistance and case management through the program, which utilizes a network of 16 UNITY member agencies. UNITY extends special thanks to the City of New Orleans, the UNITY Outreach Team, HPRP Contracts Manager Valerie Reinhard, and HPRP Case Manager Ali Salinas for all of their hard work in housing Mr. B and thousands of others like him.
To read the story on Mr. B written by Ms. Ali Salinas, click here.View Post
The long-anticipated Homeless Resource Directory is finally here! Comprehensive contact information for programs providing housing and/or services to persons who are homeless or at risk of homeless are included . Homeless services and programs are dynamic in nature so please submit any Directory updates, revisions or additions to the UNITY Director of Information and Referral, Cynthia Mitchell at email@example.com. Click here to access the directory.View Post