A historic building in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina is being renovated and is now housing eleven formerly homeless veterans.

On the Friday before Christmas, Darren Dalpiaz, a 48-year-old Army veteran, was one of the chronically homeless vets who moved into what’s being called their “forever home,” in the 1908 Sacred Heart convent and school.

When completed, the building will house 109 low-income families in apartments, with 54 of them set aside for formerly homeless individuals.

Dalpiaz’s holiday gift came courtesy of the non-profit UNITY of Greater New Orleans, which teamed with Catholic Charities and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to move some of the city’s most vulnerable homeless veterans into the new apartments at 3222 Canal St. in the Mid-City district where there is no affordable housing. Unity has housed 197 veterans permanently since July, many in a 60-unit complex they opened in 2012, with on-site caseworkers for the half of its tenants who used to be homeless.

Because homelessness is so often linked to mental or physical disability, residents like Dalpiaz will be assigned on-site case managers to assist them with things like medical appointments and reconnecting with family.

SacredHeartApartments-videoBest of all the Sacred Heart Apartments are several blocks from the new VA Medical Center and right next to public transportation.

Evidence shows the hands-on approach works, according to UNITY: All of the previously homeless tenants, even those with challenging disabilities, have remained stably housed since the building opened two years ago.

Dalpiaz’s daughter cried when he called last week to say he was no longer homeless. He is thrilled that his new grandchildren can come to visit their granddaddy.

(WATCH the video below from WGNO  or READ the full story from the New Orleans Advocate)

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