Homelessness drops 79 percent since 2007, still 18 percent higher than pre-Katrina

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 7:57 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS-- For nearly three years, Darryl Irvin teetered in and out of homelessness. As drug use consumed his life, he slept where he could.

"I slept in parks and stuff like that, cars or whatever," he said.

In 2011, Irvin said he hit rock bottom.

"Some friends of mine, they had a house that they had abandoned and they allowed me to stay there," he said.

Today, though, it is a different story: through the help of local agencies that help the homeless, Irvin cleaned up his life and now has an apartment. He is also part of a 79 percent drop in the number of area homeless.

"The trends are going downward," said Martha Kegel of UNITY of Greater New Orleans, which works with the homeless.

Unity conducted a point-in-time survey on February 25th and found 2,419 homeless. In 2007, they found 11,619-- which is where the 79 percent drop comes in.

"It's because more affordable housing is being created and more targeted services are being provided to the homeless population to actually end their homelessness," Kegel said.

UNITY believes there are other things that also may be behind the drop, including a reduction in the number of abandoned buildings and a renewed effort to reduce blight.

"So, there's a lot of different things going on, especially in the past year as New Orleans comes back," said Martha Burt, of the Washington, DC-based Urban Institute, who studied the issue of homelessness in New Orleans. "They all add up and come together in reductions of homelessness, which is a really good thing."

However, the point-in-time survey was conducted in the aftermath of the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which could have impacted the numbers.

"This year's count could have been affected a bit by the Super Bowl," Kegel said, "Next year, we'll be able to determine whether these numbers are still as good as they are this year."

They are numbers Darryl Irvin said he's happy to be a part of.

"They say I'm a success," he said. "I say, they a success."

Despite the drop in numbers, the local homeless population remains 18 percent higher than it was before Hurricane Katrina.
 

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