BATON ROUGE, LA - Homelessness in Louisiana has declined 68 percent over the past seven years according to HUD's annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count, which tracks the number of homeless people living in shelters or on the streets on a single night in January. The count showed that there were an estimated 3,994 homeless people in the state in 2016, compared to 4,081 the prior year, and 12,504 in 2009.
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"Last year we were able to assist 7,451 people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless," said Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) Executive Director Keith Cunningham. "While the number of homeless individuals has decreased over the past seven years, there is still much work to do, especially after the March flooding in north Louisiana and historic August flood in south Louisiana."
Both floods revealed that there are many more Louisiana citizens living on the verge of homelessness than previously thought, according to Cunningham. Those most at risk of homelessness include individuals who did not qualify for FEMA assistance because they lived with family and friends prior to the storms and had no formal lease agreements. Another at-risk population includes the approximately 45,000 people living with family and friends immediately after the flood.
Likewise, there are individuals staying in tents or homes not meant for habitation, and more than 3,300 residents staying in hotels in the Transitional Shelter Assistance program. Individuals in these groups meet HUD's technical definition of "homeless."
"The flood provided us with a unique set of challenges that will impact our efforts and programs moving forward," said Nicole Sweazy, Director of the Louisiana Housing Authority (LHA), an umbrella organization of the LHC. "The LHA remains the keystone of all efforts to engage and enroll vulnerable households in a way that minimizes costs to the community, supports survivors, and contributes to the best possible outcome for every household."
One of the key tools the LHA will continue to implement to reduce the number of homeless individuals in Louisiana is the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Program. The PSH program provides rental assistance to homeless individuals averaging $700 a month. It was originally funded with $73 million from the federal GO Zone Act and receives annual allocations of approximately $24 million.
Additional homeless eradication efforts will be funded through HUD's $12.8 million award to Louisiana's Balance of State Continuum of Care. Of this amount, $590,924 will go toward a new rapid re-housing bonus project that will serve at least 56 households experiencing homelessness.
"It's going to take a herculean effort to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of residents who were already homeless before the floods and those who find themselves homeless after the floods," said Sweazy. "We saw an unparalleled level of cooperation between the federal government, the state, and local agencies to find housing quickly for homeless individuals staying in disaster shelters. Our goal is to replicate these efforts not only in future disasters but also in how we work to end homelessness in Louisiana. This will require continued cooperation with our local and federal partners on a daily basis."
About the Annual Point in Time (PIT) Count
The annual PIT count is a federal requirement of HUD. The next count takes place January 23, 2017. The LHA encourages anyone interested in volunteering for this year's count to contact Gay Owens at 225-242-1390.
About the Louisiana Housing Corporation
The LHC was created by Act 408 of the 2011 Louisiana Legislative Session. The corporation administers federal and state funds through programs designed to advance the development of energy efficient and affordable housing for low and moderate income families.
About the Louisiana Housing Authority
The LHA serves severely disabled and homeless individuals by providing funding for rental assistance, supportive services, shelter operations, homeless prevention and rapid re-housing assistance. For more information on the LHA's homeless eradication efforts and programs, visit www.lhc.la.gov/page/LHA-programs.