City warns of cleanup sweep through homeless camps

City warns of cleanup sweep through homeless camps

NEW ORLEANS - Christmas carols at the Rebuild Center lightened the mood as over 210 people gathered for a jambalaya lunch. Homelessness remains a significant problem.

"It's very urgent, because not only do we see people that are coming here from out of state that are homeless, but we have a lot of working homeless people here, and they come to our center every morning, to take a shower, to get ready for work," said Kenitha Groom-Williams of the Rebuild Center's Lantern Light program.

"I don't want to be seen as a dog, or getting treated differently because I'm homeless," said a woman we'll call Natalie.

Natalie says she has been living in the homeless camp under the interstate for a year.

"It's been really horrible," said Natalie. "They don't help anybody here. I have woken up, someone standing over my bed, trying to kill me, trying to rape me."

Now the city has issued warnings to those in the camps to remove their belongings within 72 hours, when clean-up crews will sweep through. 

"Well they have done it before, they took my boyfriend's id, they took his phone. It had all our baby pictures in there, or my kids, they took everything," Natalie exclaimed. "What do you expect me to do? I got nothing, I'm homeless."

The city does these sweeps from time to time. This one happens to coincide with Christmas and New Year's, New Orleans Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. But the homeless advocates know it's pretty much a useless effort because these folks will come back.

"Very often they come in here, and this is their place of refuge until they can return," said Sr. Vera Butler, PBVM, of the Rebuild Cdenter's Lantern Light program.  "They return, that's their home."

"I've heard of people getting stabbed and robbed from living under here," said Phil Costa as he drove by. 

Advocates say finding a solution to the homelessness issue will take time, and require effort from those at all levels.


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