How did New Orleans solve its homeless veterans problem?
One reporter in the city says that it took a unified effort between all state, federal and local homelessness organizations to solve the issue.
The number of homeless people in Los Angeles County did increase this year, but there is a silver lining: there are fewer homeless veterans on the streets.
The number of homeless veterans in the county dropped from 4,362 in the 2015 count to 3,071 this year, according to officials.
The city's effort to bring down that number dovetail with President Obama's goal to eliminate homelessness among America's veteran service men and women nationwide.
Los Angeles is slowly moving toward that goal but New Orleans is one of the cities that has actually reached it.
"Right now it's down to a functional zero," says Times-Picayune reporter Richard Webster to Take Two's A Martinez.
"Before Hurricane [Katrina], we had about 2,000 homeless people on the street at any point in time," Webster says. "That ballooned to 12,000 in 2007. Per the latest numbers last year, it got down to 1,700."
That's almost a 90 percent reduction. Webster said that was achieved when every philanthropic homeless organization came together to create the Interagency Council in Homelessness.
"Before the storm all the different non-profits and homeless agencies were working for themselves, competing for grants," he says. "There was no coordination. What this plan did was bring all these different partners together."
That coordination is between federal, state and local agencies. One group, Unity of Greater New Orleans, has taken charge. It takes the lead on applying for grants, decides who gets the money and how it will be used. Usually it goes towards permanent supportive housing for veterans.
So what exactly does the phrase "functional zero" mean? According to Webster it doesn't mean that there are no more homeless veterans on the street.
"Now there is a guarantee that if [a veteran] is found on the street, they'll receive a home within 30 days," Webster says. "Stopping people from getting homeless is kind of hard because there's so many factors that go into it. What they're trying to do is once they are on the streets, they have a rapid response system in place to try and put these people into homes as quickly as possible."
The program has successfully helped one segment of the homelessness population, veterans, and plans to move on to helping others for the next few years.
While it's a remarkable achievement, Webster says he isn't sure that the same thing can be replicated everywhere and questions whether a city as large as Los Angeles County could make similar changes.
"It may be a lot harder in Los Angeles because New Orleans is smaller geographically," Webster says. "I don't know if the same thing can be pulled off there."
To hear the full conversation, click the player above.