Some question Landrieu's 10-year homeless plan - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Some question Landrieu's 10-year homeless plan

New Orleans, La. -

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to end homelessness in 10 years was announced last November.  Now, almost a year later, some question whether it's working.

Members of a Special Housing and Human Needs Committee say they see a visible increase in the homeless population. But the city's point person on homeless issues says the Landrieu administration is fighting homelessness and is considering every possible alternative.

"It is unacceptable that we have to go through this every single day," said downtown resident Cassandra Sharpe.

It's an endemic problem that many say has become a crisis. The homeless population in New Orleans remains one of the highest in the country, and residents who live around them don't think the situation's getting any better.

"As I live there, I see it, I go downtown. In fact I see a rise," said Collenn Lusignan, who lives near the New Orleans Mission downtown.  "I'm just worried about the implementation of the 10-year plan, and whether or not we really are making strides in reducing homelessness."

The city's 10-year action plan is designed to dramatically reduce the number of homeless across New Orleans.  A team of experts from the public and private sectors put the plan together in 100 days. 

According to the advocacy group Unity for the Homeless, more than 4,000 people remain on the street, but that's about 2,000 people less than last year, thanks to a number of homelessness programs.

Officials overseeing the program say it's working so far.

"There has been a 27 percent reduction in homelessness, as evidenced by Unity, and so that is a significant improvement," said Stacy Horn-Koch, director of the Neighborhood Services and Facilities and Homeless Policy.

In addition to about $8 million in funds dedicated to reducing the homeless population, Horn-Koch says three emergency solution grants will be combined to help target those living without a place to call home.

The city says reusing the old VA Hospital downtown is part of the enlarged 10-year plan to reduce a chronic homeless population. The hospital will be a comprehensive resource center, with plans to launch as early as October 2013.  Medical exams, emergency care and health screenings will be available at the renovated facility.

"It is an unprecedented partnership between the VA and the city. We're the first in the nation to partner with something like this," said Horn-Koch.

Horn-Koch says a goal right now is to put more homeless living in abandoned and unsafe housing into permanent homes, especially the 60 percent or more dealing with mental health issues.

"It's essential that we're able to connect these people with services so that we are able to get them stabilized, and keep them housed," said Horn-Koch.

Downtown residents such as Sharpe hope the mayor's 10-year plan will lead to an improvement in the quality of life in her neighborhood.   "We can't live, work and try to thrive in an environment like this.  It's bad enough for the people that live under the bridge, but we are allowing it," said Sharpe.

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