Veterans get a ‘forever home’

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By Della Hasselle

Darren Dalpiaz has trouble remembering things. It’s a side effect, the 48-year-old veteran said, of a severe head injury he suffered while in the Army. He also has social anxiety disorder. Together, they make it hard for him to hold down a job or even make it to appointments.

Dalpiaz had been homeless for 10 years, wandering the streets in New Orleans and beyond and struggling to survive. But now he’s among 11 chronically homeless veterans with apartments in the old Sacred Heart convent and school in Mid-City.

“It’s so wonderful,” he said, misty-eyed, sitting on his new couch in his brand-new apartment. “Until this moment, I didn’t think this was going to happen. It’s the best Christmas ever, because I’ve got a home for Christmas.”

Unity of Greater New Orleans 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 complex on Canal Street.

The building, a nursing home before Hurricane Katrina, will eventually house a mix of disabled veterans, formerly homeless people and tenants earning at most half the area’s median income.

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