N.O. sees reduction in homelessness, but more is needed - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

N.O. sees reduction in homelessness, but more is needed

UNITY is hoping to reach its goal of reducing homelessness over the next five years. (Source: Flickr Commons) UNITY is hoping to reach its goal of reducing homelessness over the next five years. (Source: Flickr Commons)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

“It was like a nightmare. It was disgusting."

Abbot Roland has been homeless since 2009 and living in an abandoned house in Central City.

“Words cannot express how I felt," he said. "It was something that I could never dream that I’d be going through this. It’s unbearable.”

On Aug. 20, Roland’s dream of a better life came true. Thanks to UNITY, Roland has a new place to call home.

“We’ve managed to drive down homelessness in New Orleans by 85 percent in the last eight years. That is a rate of reduction that no other city can equal in America,” said UNITY Director Martha Kegel.

Kegel said in 2007, there were 12,000 homeless people in New Orleans. Today, there are about 1,700. That number, UNITY says, is still too high.

“New Orleans still has a higher percentage of its residents living in homelessness than most American cities," Kegel said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work needed to be done. We’re working on a model that’s based upon what we’ve accomplished with veteran homelessness,” Bill Hines said.

At the end of last year, the city managed to reached what’s called "functional zero" on veteran homelessness.

“Functional zero is where we’re able to house veterans that are found to be homeless within an average of 30 days of identifying them. In fact, a lot of people in the community cannot believe that statistic but it’s true,” Hines said.

UNITY is now working to apply the model used for veteran homeless to all homeless cases.

“While its way down from what it was, it’s still something very shocking. We are passionate and very determined to end this tragedy,” Kegel said.

The organization’s success has already caught the attention of other cities, and UNITY says it fields questions on a regular basis from places like Hawaii, where there’s a serious homeless problem.

“I think that’s what really distinguishes New Orleans, and why we’ve made so much progress, is because unlike other cities, ever since Katrina, we’ve treated every case of homelessness as an emergency,” Kegel said.

UNITY is hoping to reach its goal of reducing homelessness over the next five years.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly