Chronically Homeless See New Woes in New Orleans

Another driveway moment on NPR that we recommend you listen to. The situation in New Orleans is a constant reminder of our failure to meet the needs of our fellow citizens. The article focuses on a 3000 unit city-wide supportive housing initiative that is at risk of failure due to lack of rental assistance. It also highlights the benefits of supportive housing for the homeless.

To listen click here. audio_icon.gif

The following is a portion of the text. To read all of the text click here.

Morning Edition, January 23, 2008 · Austin Earl is so poor that the only place he could find to sleep at night was a spot of hard grass in a city park.

Earl has few possessions. But even when you have almost nothing, it’s still not safe to live on the streets of New Orleans.

“I got robbed about a week ago,” Earl says. “Broad daylight, coming from the grocery store. Two youngsters.

“They took the money I had. Took my cigarettes, my lighter. I found my wallet about a block away. You know, to rob the homeless is something I really couldn’t understand, but there’s guys that does it. ”

Earl, 52, has been on the streets for four years – even before Hurricane Katrina. He has a mental illness, but it’s been a while since he’s taken the medications he needs. He’s one of an estimated 12,000 chronically homeless people in New Orleans.

Housing Plan Emphasizes Support

Since Katrina, the city’s homeless population has doubled, according to groups that work with the homeless. Almost all the city’s affordable housing was destroyed.

So Louisiana came up with a bold plan to house the most desperate and hardest-to-help homeless people like Earl. The state is building thousands of new apartments and houses.

They’re for “permanent supportive housing.” The idea is to give the most chronically homeless people a permanent place to live.

Unlike in other programs, these people are not required to get off drugs or alcohol, or to get their mental illness under control before they can move in.

Just getting them off the streets is considered therapeutic.

According to the plan, when the homeless have found a permanent place to live, the state will offer them whatever social services they need to succeed in that house, from substance-abuse counseling to simple help in learning how to shop or how to balance a checkbook.

Congress gave the state of Louisiana millions of dollars to provide the social services the people need when they move into the new apartments.

It also gave millions of dollars of tax breaks to developers to build housing for homeless people. In return, the developers agreed to give low rents to the poor and to set aside at least 5 percent of their units to the most chronically homeless.

The first of those new homes and apartments will be available in the next few weeks.

To read all of the text click here.