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Business owners say New Orleans homeless problem is getting worse

Two restaurateurs whose businesses are known internationally are hoping this story will force change before it’s too late.

NEW ORLEANS — A picture being shared on social media is highlighting a worsening problem in the city of New Orleans.

And now business leaders are speaking out. They say the continued deterioration in the main tourism areas of the city are turning both locals and visitors away.

We spoke to several business and organization leaders about the growing problem of people passed out or living on the streets. They did not all feel comfortable going on camera, but all of them said it's time for action.

Two restaurateurs whose businesses are known internationally are hoping this story will force change before it’s too late.

It's a picture being forwarded over and over. Three people passed out on the corner of Iberville and Royal Streets. The woman has no pants on and is exposed. They are lying under the sign for the famous Mr. B's restaurant.

"Forty-three years that we've been down here, and I've never seen anything like that. The picture's accurate, because any given day that goes on down here,"  Cindy Brennan said.

She says the picture is real. It was taken in the Fall of 2021. She says it's become symbolic of a problem that is only getting worse.

"Yesterday I sent it to the mayor and the whole city council. I've yet to hear anything. I just want them to see it," Cindy Brennan said.

Some say it's hurting the bottom line.

"I have gotten letters from customers who have said they refuse to come back to New Orleans, although they love our city so much, but the deterioration, they don't want to be here, and it's really sad. They love the food. They love the music. They love the charm of the city, but they want, don't want all the other mess," she said.

"More and more New Orleanians are 'I don't want to go down to the French Quarter', and you know that kills us," Dickie Brennan said.

Dickie Brennan owns seven restaurants and is part of a culinary cooking school.

"For a business owner, all we go through every day to survive, and to not be protected, to not have some kind of controlled environment. It's just it's epidemic," he said.

People on the streets are near the convention center, hotels, and visitor hot spots. It hurts business bottom lines and city tax revenue. Mr. B's joined a few other businesses in the Quarter and hired their own security. It was no longer fair to ask managers to clear the sidewalks. 

They say years of talking, and meetings with city leaders has changed nothing.

"This is just 10 years that it's just gotten to where it's out of control and I think people have just lost hope," Dickie Brennan said.

"We've been doing it for years, and we got no response and we have sent photos. We have had meetings. We've had business group meetings with all the owners, and everybody feels the same woes, but there's no results. There's no action. Nobody cares," Cindy Brennan said.

We asked the city for an interview Tuesday morning, but have not heard back.

The Downtown Development District says it is giving significant funding to a shelter for the homeless and social work services.

Public Safety Rangers interact with people on the streets and the Economic Development Team is working on affordable housing.

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