Homeless camp concerns grow over aggressive panhandling

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 10:40 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 12 at 9:46 AM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS - The stench is horrific under the Pontchartrain Expressway, where tents, mattresses, and trash are spread over several blocks. But there are growing concerns about aggressive panhandling.

"He was screaming obscenities, said that women were a certain word, and he needed money for food," said Michele, who works in the Central Business District. "I was fearful that there was going to be a physical altercation, so I actually called 911."

Even those in the camp live in fear.

"Who might do something to hurt my child," worried Vatoria Williams. "I don't know what's going to happen."

Vatoria Williams and fiancé August Forman spent eight months homeless with their infant son, finally getting a week at a boardinghouse Thursday night.

"I've been out here trying to find work," said August. "I can't get work."

"A group of attorneys decided that they wanted to do something," said Vickie Ryan, Executive Director of the newly formed Grace At The Greenlight outreach program.

Social worker Vickie Ryan handed out water and meal vouchers, calling it a first step.

"Until we're able to secure some buildings, and start our housing program," Ryan explained.

City Council member LaToya Cantrell was not available Friday, but her staff said she is very frustrated, searching for answers to this problem, whether it be better police protection, or even erecting a fence around this area to close the camp.

"Something has to be done about these hostile, aggressive panhandlers," said Michele.

As a sanitation crew cleaned the debris, a spokesman said the city is working with state officials, and preparing bids to re-purpose the area, potentially fencing it, adding they are working with 60 agencies to help the homeless, and keep things safe.
 

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