NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Crescent City is the first major city to effectively end veteran homelessness according to First Lady Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama visited Gallier Hall today to congratulate Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the rest of the groups who made the feat possible.
The push to end veteran homelessness started last year when President Obama challenged mayors of major cities to find homes for their homeless vets by the end of 2015, but Mayor Landrieu said the city completed the task by the beginning of this year.
"With the whole city around this effort, you knocked that goal out of the park and became the first major city in the country, to end homelessness among our veterans," Mrs. Obama said.
The mayor acknowledged that the fight to end homelessness will never be over, but said the city now has the system and tools it will take to keep the nation's vets off the streets.
"It's a functional end, because tomorrow another veteran is going to show up and be homeless, and that's what happened when 45 new veterans showed up and we put them in houses in 30 days," Landrieu said.
Some veterans at the event were thrilled to finally have a home and a roof over their heads.
"I feel so honored and blessed that I go into my apartment and cried, like oh my god, look what I got, it's given me a second chance and I believe a lot of the veterans and homeless believe the same thing," Mia Ekola, a one-time homeless vet, said.
Darren Dalpiaz spent nearly two decades on the streets and while he was trained to live outside, he knows nothing beats a home.
"When I turned that key for the first time, it was like the best Christmas ever, I walked in, I had furniture, I had a bed to sleep on," Dalpiaz said. "The things that the city has done for me, and the state, and the VA and UNITY especially, I'll never have to be alone again, I've always got a home."
The mayor said the program is working so well that some homeless veterans are making their way to New Orleans in hopes of finding a home.