SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — There’s been a dramatic drop in the homeless population in Shreveport and statewide in Louisiana.
That’s the conclusion of a new report released by Security.org.
It shows Louisiana ranks 50th in the country for its homeless population.
The only state with fewer homeless people per capita is Mississippi.
Washington, D.C., also is included in the study.
While the homeless crisis in this country is complex, experts credit several factors for making a big difference.
Based on government figures from 2014-18, homelessness has dropped by 15% in the past decade.
But that still leaves a half million Americans with no place to live.
Shreveport has had its own struggles with homelessness.
“At one point, we had around 300 people, it was estimated, living on the street,” said Christa Pazzaglia, executive director of Hope Connections.
The nonprofit is described as the “front door” for services to the homeless in the Shreveport area.
Pazzaglia estimates that the local homeless population now stands at roughly 40-45 people on a given night.
That helps explain the 41% drop in Shreveport’s homeless rate in five years.
That's the third most among U.S. cities, with New Orleans just ahead in second place.
Dayna Miller said she spent a lot of time homeless in Shreveport but now has a roof over her head.
That said, she expressed some skepticism about some of those statistics about large drops in the homeless population.
“Louisiana, maybe. Shreveport, no, no. So, uh uh .”
Pazzaglia, for her part, is the first to tell you that their efforts to lower the homeless rate have plateaued in the past two years.
But she also stood by those numbers and credited one factor in particular.
“We started housing the most vulnerable people, we started putting them in housing first, rather than the most likely to succeed.”
Once off the streets, their other needs — from mental health counseling to help finding a job — are addressed.
On the streets of Shreveport, just spend a few minutes talking with people and you’ll likely soon realize that many of them feel like they’re in a so-called Catch-22 with no good option.
If they spend too much time in downtown Shreveport, they fear law officers might arrest them for vagrancy.
But when they try to go to one of the many makeshift homeless camps, those settlements often are wiped out.
While the homeless rate has dropped by 34% statewide since 2014, the seven parishes in Northwest Louisiana have seen a 55% drop over the past five years, Pazzaglia said.
She fears those rates would quickly rise to previous levels if funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that pays for homeless housing were to ever dry up.