New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy” and often mentioned as a city within two cities. A selected few may live quite easy, but many residents find it not easy at all. As Charles Dickens, the famous novelist, writes in “A Tales of Two Cities”, “It is the best of times and the worst of times” but not for anyone in London or Paris, but for those in New Orleans. A light was shown on the poverty, and lack of concern for the poor. Hurricane Katrina left the country and the world with an unfavorable view of the city. Despite the poverty-stricken areas of the city, the people and the culture were recognized as the Diamonds and Pearls of its makeup. After this catastrophe, affordable housing for poor families was omitted from the rebounding city, leaving families with nowhere to go. Many families who lived in subsidized housing were transported to other parts of the country; families were separated. When they finally returned to New Orleans, the city did not provide for them. Homelessness grew larger than anyone could have ever imagined. The children who were separated from their parents experienced trauma and that exacerbated conditions. There was a population of impoverished youth who returned to the city homeless. 1.1 million children live with a parent, mom or less frequently a dad who is homeless.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the 9 billion dollar budget for the city. This is a city with less than 400,000 population; however, the homelessness is increasing. In 2000 before Katrina, the city’s population was 484,674, its population dropped to 230,172 in 2006. In 2007 the New Orleans homeless population was 11,600, it has dropped to 1188 in 2019. In January 2019, there were 3059 people homeless in Louisiana.
The greatest homeless population is families, single parents with children. This phenomenon is increasing in every state in this country. The first black female mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell expanded more programs to address family’s basic needs. Healthcare programs provides medical and dental care for the homeless populations at clinics in two locations in Central City and the city’s Westbank. In 2018, new expansions included services for Behavioral Health Counseling and Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) for outpatient opioid clients. The city additionally received funding for 350 housing units to be added to reduce homelessness. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and New Orleans Housing Department (NOHD) partnered to create, the Sobering Center, a diversion program, to provide intensive case management for the chronically intoxicated homeless population.
References: US Interagency on Homeless, National Alliance to End Homeless, DoorwayVA.Org, Pew/Stateline. Nola.gov