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How New Orleans Rehoused 90 Percent of Homeless Residents

Homelessness spiked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But the city has made substantial progress in providing housing and services to keep people off the streets.
March 15, 2019, 10am PDT | Elana Eden
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New Orleans has reduced homelessness by 90 percent since 2007, when Hurricane Katrina left more than 11,600 people without places to live. WBUR reporter Jeremy Hobson interviews Martha Kegel, executive director of the non-profit coalition Unity of Greater New Orleans, about which strategies worked best to solve the city's crisis.

Because people continue to lose their homes—thanks, Kegel says, to gentrification and a lack of affordable housing—advocates use a metric called "functional zero," meaning that the number of homeless people never exceeds the number of people being rehoused. New Orleans has achieved functional zero in both veteran and family homelessness.

The basis of their success is a Housing First approach and wraparound services: first, provide people an apartment, and then provide services to ensure their stability and quality of life. Unity also went to Congress to procure a rental assistance fund.

Wraparound services can require comprehensive individual attention, so effectiveness at a large scale requires close collaboration among the Veterans Administration, the Housing Authority, and other organizations. But, Kegel notes:

"This is a very cost-effective approach: compare constantly cycling in and out of jail on charges that wouldn't even be relevant if they had an apartment, that are costing the taxpayers a lot of money … to a relatively small amount of money to pay for some rent assistance."

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Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 in WBUR
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