How New Orleans Reduced Its Homeless Population By 90 Percent

Unity NPR Interview

Taken from Wbur.org

Across the U.S., more than a half million people have been identified as homeless.

New Orleans faced a major crisis in homelessness following Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, two years after the storm, there were more than 11,600 homeless people in the city. Since then, New Orleans stepped up its effort to tackle homelessness and has brought that number down 90 percent.

Martha Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans, tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson the strategy to tackle the “unprecedented explosion” of homelessness in the city following Katrina was threefold.

First, Kegel says, Unity of Greater New Orleans — a nonprofit leading a collaborative of organizations providing housing and services to the homeless — had to assemble an outreach team that “was willing to go anywhere and do anything to rescue and rehouse a homeless person.”

Second, Kegel says the group put all its effort behind gathering a rent assistance fund. “We went directly to Congress,” she says. “We were very fortunate to get some resources together to actually be able to provide rent assistance and house people in what apartments we could find.”

And lastly, she says, the team took a “Housing First” approach, which is “simply the idea that you accept people as they are,” whether they are sober or not.

“You just accept them as they are and you provide the housing first,” Kegel says. “Then, once they’re in their apartment, you immediately wrap all the services around them that they need to stay stable and live the highest quality life that they can live.”

Read the full story at WBUR
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