NEW ORLEANS -- Leaders of UNITY GNO, the coalition of non-profit agencies that fight homelessness, announced an ambitious goal by the Hurricane Katrina 10th anniversary next year.
"The goal that we set today is that we are going to end chronic homelessness," said UNITY Executive Director Martha Kegel. "That means the phenomenon of people with serious mental and physical disabilities being homeless."
They say they have already found homes for 2,500 people, using federal funds to provide permanent supportive housing.
"That means an affordable apartment with a case manager who comes on site to help people get stable," said Kegel.
"It was so dark and bleak at one time, and I didn't want anybody to know," said Dyrick.
When his kidneys failed and he couldn't work, Dyrick wound up living in his car with his five kids.
"Sitting on Canal Street, and I just pulled over and started crying, just crying buckets, and my phone rang," Dyrick said. "When the phone rang, it was Ms. Suzette from UNITY."
Now Dyrick can smile again.
"They're helping us find housing, and my kids, they brought home their report cards yesterday, and they're all on the honor roll, and I'm so proud of them," Dyrick said.
In 2007 things looked bleak.
"Prior to Katrina, we had about 6,000 homeless in New Orleans, and Jefferson, now we have about 12,000," Martha Kegel said in 2007.
"In only six years, homeless has gone down by 80 percent in New Orleans," Kegel said Wednesday, noting how much success they've had helping people living on the streets.
UNITY's 60 member agencies served 16,000 people last year, mostly New Orleanians. But they are quite aware that the problem of homeless has not been solved.
"We can't completely end homelessness all together, but the camps are a very high priority, led by the city, with non profits including UNITY," Kegel said.