Unsung heroes praised for lowered homelessness levels in New Orleans


This month, the city of New Orleans remembered the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city 10 years ago. Since then, the city has recovered significantly, partially thanks to the $71 billion provided by the Obama and Bush administrations, but also due to the funds’ usage.

Just before the beginning of the summer, First Lady Michelle Obama praised Mitchell Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans since 2010, for leading the city to effectively complete last year’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. 

The statistics provide a compelling case of well-deserved praise for lowering the homelessness rate by 85 percent since its height post-Katrina.

But while Landrieu has worked well with the federal and state government in order to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding each year, his success seems all but circumstantial in light of the discoveries of Dr. Sam Tsemberis, a psychologist, whose findings have prompted massive reform in addressing homelessness. 

His method known as “Housing First” directly addresses homelessness before offering drug addicts who are homeless any therapy or treatment. 

This process increases their sense of personal security, reducing recidivism rates and substantially lowering the cost of treatment across multiple types of services as a result. In Utah, The Washington Post reports cases that used to cost $20,000 now costing only $12,000. Therefore, Landrieu’s implementation of Tsemberis’ discovery has saved New Orleans millions to tens of millions of dollars on the thousands of cases the city is dealing with, allowing the city to house hundreds to thousands more than normal.

There are still major problems that need to be addressed, despite these discoveries and the committed efforts of leaders. 

A report from the Urban League of Greater New Orleans revealed that black New Orleans citizens have been left behind compared to white New Orleans citizens, pointing out severe income discrepancies that have increased since the height of Katrina. 

These citizen’s however do praise Landrieu’s 10-year housing plan that implements the “Housing First” system and look forward to its results which are expected to be not only effective but also equitable. 

Although New Orleans is still highly ranked in homelessness per capita and has one of the highest child poverty rates, it appears to be only a matter of time before these issues are resolved, thanks to a few unsung heroes.