NEW ORLEANS —
Dozens of the city’s homeless were moved Tuesday from a Central Business District Hotel to another hotel in New Orleans East.
That move -- the second such in as many weeks -- comes as social workers try to get them the help they need to kick substance-abuse problems, to sign up for healthcare and to look for jobs and permanent housing.
Nearly 200 people were offered temporary housing on March 26 after the city cleared out the large homeless encampment at Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue, as well as one in Duncan Plaza across from City Hall.
The city and state made the call to clear out the encampment after some people who lived there tested positive for COVID-19. Rats also began to frequent the area looking for food after many of the city’s restaurants closed down, Ellen Lee, New Orleans’ director of community and economic development said Tuesday.
“And unfortunately, that was in our homeless encampments,” Lee said.
A mix of federal, state and local funds was used to pay for temporary housing at the 155-room Hilton Garden Inn on Gravier Street.
But on Tuesday, some people were moved to a Quality Inn along the I-10 Service Road in New Orleans East.
Lee said it was easier to manage the group in two places because of “logistical issues” at the Hilton.
Stacy Koch, the state director of housing and community development, said she has one goal before funding for the program runs out.
"Our goal -- it's a very lofty goal -- but our goal is to try to house 75 percent of these people before we have to close the hotel room doors," she said.
Koch said that only happens when people have time to develop relationships, which can only happen in smaller, more intimate group settings.
“All of us create relationships through our lives, and you trust the people that you have a good relationship with,” she said.
The city said that several other homeless encampments under the Pontchartrain Expressway were not cleared out since there are no public health threats there.
“We are monitoring the situation at other sites and will engage all relevant agencies, including the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, to find the most effective ways we can protect our residents during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond,” a statement from City Hall said.