Feb 24, 2011

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Louisiana Unites Around Registry Week

Over the last three days, Louisiana became the first state to implement the Vulnerability Index at the state level through a statewide Registry Week. 

The Campaign has been going strong in places like New Orleans for over a year, but this week, volunteers fanned out across cities like Shreveport and Baton Rouge to survey the homeless populations in those cities and generate momentum around moving the most vulnerable in to permanent supportive housing.

In Shreveport, survey participants have already identified twice as many street homeless people as they did at the time of their last Point In Time count. This year, each of those individuals will also provide answers to the questions on the Vulnerability Index, which will allow the city's Campaign team to prioritize the most vulnerable for housing as soon as possible.

You can read about Shreveport's effort and the entire statewide Registry Week below in today's Shreveport Times.


Volunteers survey homeless people about health, backgrounds

By Melody Brumble

Lennis Stephens expects to be living in a home in less than a week, but for now, he's living in his van in downtown Shreveport.

The Vietnam veteran, 63, is among people in Shreveport and Bossier City who participated in a bi-yearly survey that gathers information about people living on the street and in emergency shelters. The 2009 survey found 973 homeless people, down from 1,442 in 2007.

Stephens moved from California to Shreveport seven months ago to get closer to family members in Texas.

He said he wanted to stretch his military pension further so he can help his son and a grandchild financially.

He participated in a housing help program in Shreveport, but the voucher he received is good only in Shreveport. He drove to Texas to arrange for another voucher.

"My housing will be ready on the second, and I get a check on the first," Stephens said. "I'll be going to DeKalb, Texas."

This year, the survey focuses on homeless people's health needs.

Local volunteers have joined others across Louisiana to find homeless people who will die without housing, medical care and other services. The survey is part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which aims to find homes for the 100,000 most vulnerable homeless people in the United States by 2013.

For the first time, local agencies are spending three days, not just one, surveying people on the streets and in emergency shelters. Besides visiting homeless camps in the area this year, volunteers spent time at 10 Shreveport-Bossier City locations where homeless people go to eat or get out of the weather during the day.

The extra effort already is yielding results, said Christa Pazzaglia, executive director of Hope for the Homeless, a coalition of agencies serving homeless people.

The coalition hopes to have complete statistics about street homeless and those in emergency shelters by next week. "We already have two times the number of street homeless counted than in 2009," she said Wednesday, the second day of surveys.

Heart disease, diabetes and kidney and liver failure were the most common ailments among the homeless men and women interviewed.

"We are going to take the 50 most vulnerable cases and try to find them housing," Pazzaglia said. "This could potentially change how we address homelessness in the area. It's going to cause us to look at homelessness as a health care issue and a mortality issue. We look at it now as a social justice issue."

David Willis, a month removed from life on the streets, encouraged homeless men he knows to participate in the survey. Hope for the Homeless helped Willis get into an apartment and get mental health treatment.

"I lived in the woods for about a year," said Willis, 62. "Now, I'm at the Fairmont. Next week, I'm going to cook a birthday dinner for a friend of mine. She's turning 40. I'm doing gumbo."