City of New Orleans closes homeless encampment

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 28, 2011 at 10:33 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 28 at 10:42 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News

A homeless encampment underneath the Ponchartrain Expressway along Calliope Street is gone.

The City of New Orleans cleared out the camp to reduce homelessness in the city. However, the move came as a shock to some nearby shelters that claim they weren't given advance notice.

Ronald, who has been homeless since Hurricane Katrina, spent nights at an encampment that blossomed underneath the Ponchartrain Expressway and he would spend nights there.

"It just wasn't working well. I was homeless from that point. You don't got no money to pay your bills," explained Ronald.

Mark, who also lived on the streets, says you never knew what to expect living under the bridge. You had to be careful.

"People walking all day, it's scary," he said.

Signs warning people to stay away and bare pavement has replaced the homeless faces that populated the encampment.
 
On Friday morning, city workers showed up to clear bicycles, sleeping bags, and other items belonging to the homeless. The city says it will continue patrols to keep this area clear.

"Yesterday I noticed that there was hardly anyone and the fence was around in the evening. And today I got several calls: 'did I know'?," said Linda Gonzalez, director of the New Orleans Mission. Gonzalez runs the non-profit which provides food and shelter for the homeless. She says the city never warned her about shutting down the encampment across the street.

"We've been trying to get them help for a long time. We've gone out there to try and help them. They felt the longer they stayed there maybe they'd get help faster," added Gonzalez.

Across town, Occupy NOLA is nearing its one-month anniversary.

"I've been out here since the first day. Three weeks and one day," said Occupy NOLA protester Robert Riche.

Joining the ranks of protesters on Friday, some of the city's homeless who once lived under the bridge.

Riche says the city needs to do more to help people living on the street.

"It's a shelter of last resort for people. There's no reason why we can not house these people. We have so many resources in this city, there are so many buildings," said Riche.
 
Unity of New Orleans says 60 percent of the people living in the old encampment suffered from mental illness, 25 percent of those had some sort of developmental disability and on any given night, 5,000 people slept unsheltered.
 
Local agencies say that homeless picture is growing because of the economic downturn.

"It's amazing. I'm seeing people who are evicted from their houses and they're calling. It's the first time that they're homeless and they don't know how to act. They're afraid," said Gonzalez.

As for Ronald and Mark, both are off the streets thanks to New Orleans Mission. They're trying to find jobs and Ronald is steps closer to finding a place to call home again.

"I got a call today," said Ronald about possible housing.

The city of New Orleans says about 85 homeless people were moved from the encampment into temporary housing while they wait for permanent housing,  20 were placed in shelters,
and 10 were placed on buses to be reunited with family or friends out of town.

Unity of New Orleans estimates that at least 112 regular residents lived in that encampment. The non-profit says it desperately needs donations from the community to help set-up people in their new homes and local job opportunities for the homeless.

To help out click you can go to http://unitygno.org/

 

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