NEW ORLEANS - Gary Pierron has been on the streets for three years.
“I'd all but died, I'd given up hope on everything,” said Pierron.
But for Pierron, the rebirth of a Central City building could mean a new lease on life.
“It opens up so many avenues,” said Pierron.
Officials broke ground Saturday to redevelop a former assisted living center at 2101 Louisiana Ave. It will become a state of the art apartment building for those who are homeless and disabled, or low income.
“We have people dying on the streets every day and this will be a tremendous help,” said Clarence Adams, an administrator at Ozonam Inn.
Of 42 units in the building, half will be dedicated to those who are disabled and coming out of homelessness. The others will be geared toward low-income renters.
There will be on-site case management, computer labs and 24/7 security. Every unit will have critical amenities like showers and laundry facilities that so many of us take for granted.
“You need a home base,” said Pierron. “You can't go looking for a job from under the bridge.”
It's part of the mayor's continuing effort to end homelessness in 10 years. It will be the second building of its kind in New Orleans. The other, a 60-unit apartment building on Tulane Avenue, opened this summer.
Now, officials hope the latest redevelopment on Louisiana Avenue will spark more progress in this blight-riddled area.
“With the high quality of what's going on here, we'll have a spillover effect to the surrounding neighborhood and I think ti's going to start to clean up some of the stuff that you see around here,” said Jeff Hebert, executive director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which is responsible for helping the city bring blighted properties back into commerce.
But with an estimated 5,000 homeless people in the metro area, the efforts to end homelessness have a long way to go. But for those like Pierron, just one bed makes a big difference.
The $10.8 million development is slated to open next summer.
It is made possible by a partnership between Unity and NORA. Both organizations hope to continue these kinds of developments in the future.