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New Orleans clears out homeless camp of 160 people


By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - City workers wearing gloves - and a few in face masks - threw sofas, armchairs and quilts into garbage trucks Thursday, clearing out a homeless encampment of about 160 people. Officials said it attracted rats and called it a public health hazard.

By the end of rush hour, an area underneath an overpass less than a mile from the Superdome, where the NFL's New Orleans Saints play, was empty of tents, clothes, cardboard boxes and other items. Workers hosed down the concrete.

City officials gave the homeless about 2 1/2 days of notice and said there were enough beds in shelters. Most of them went to a shelter, but some didn't.

"I have no desire, no inclination, to live in there with a hundred men," Billy Holmes said, gesturing to the nearby New Orleans Mission. He said he had been living under the highway for about a month and a half after he damaged a disk in his neck in June, ending his construction work.

Homeless Under Freeway Told to Leave

Holmes said the city wanted the encampment cleared because it looks bad to tourists - the city's biggest business - and because the Saints have their first preseason home game Friday.

"In my opinion, the football season takes precedence. They want to clear it out for tailgating and parking," Holmes said.

The area has been cleared of homeless people periodically over the years three years, including in late 2012 before the Super Bowl.

The mission took in 32 people early Thursday, bringing its population to about 232, said director David Bottner.

Whatever the city's reason and timing, he said: "I think it's a wonderful idea that you would ask people to go and receive the help that they need to begin to get on the path that God has created you for."

Dwayne Williams, 46, sat on one of his six bags, ranging from a duffel to a plastic one tied to a cord around his neck.

Matt Anderson, a freelance photographer before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, rode up on a bicycle and tried to convince Williams to see a counselor from Unity of Greater New Orleans, a coalition of 60 agencies working for the homeless.

"Unity fixed me up four years ago, when I was living in an abandoned building," he told Williams. "They climbed a fence to get to me. I came through Unity and I've got a place to live."

Williams didn't want to listen, but Anderson left with information about him, which he planned to pass on to a Unity case worker.

About 20 minutes later, a car pulled up. Williams put his duffel into the trunk.

"I told Mr. Williams I was going to find a way to bring him home and stay with us," said Jack Tucker, who was in the front passenger seat.

The city's health director, Charlotte Parent, said the area was closed because trash and filth attracted rats, and the city couldn't get it scrubbed and put out rat poison with the homeless there.

A day before the sweep, Robert Daniels sat on two milk crates outside a large maroon-and-white tent someone gave him while he was panhandling last week. Big chunks of concrete anchored the tent's ropes.

"They had rats before we came around. Bourbon Street has got a whole lot of rats," he said. The city's famed street in the heart of the French Quarter attracts millions of tourists each year.

"Wherever you've got trash, you've got a whole lot of rats. This ain't going to change that," Daniels said.


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rhonankr August 15 2014 at 8:57 AM

Homeless? She can afford a cigarette and jewelry, and some spiffy sandals and hair dye and clean clothes, especially that clean mighty bright white top. In New Orleans there are SOOOO many places to go for help if you really want it - so many churches, missions, etc. Even the Police will help you find a place to help you. We're talking LAZY here. Want to bet she has an address someplace and gets food stamps, welfare, SSI, Disability payments, and any other government assistant program(s) they have out there? Trust me on this one people. I KNOW New Orleans. This one is NOT homeless or mentally impaired... she's got an income and we go to work and pay for it!

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4 replies
Marven Gardens August 15 2014 at 5:09 AM

New Orleans still looks and smells like a cesspit anyway.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
3 replies
tazzubek66 August 15 2014 at 2:39 AM

Why do the homeless feel they are entitled to setup a place to live on public property? It does affect businesses and residents as well as tourists.

There are homeless who truly need help but there are also homeless who are lazy but either way they should no be setting up couches, recliners, beds and living spaces in parking lots, parks, abandoned buildings or other public places.

I was homeless for a brief period of time when I was in my 20's. Being homeless is not fun and can be scary but I didn't encroach on residents or businesses so most people never knew I was homeless. The photos shown here indicate these people feel comfortable enough to live in the parking lot and that's not okay.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
5 replies
jeslats August 15 2014 at 3:13 AM

orleans is and always has been a dump. should have burned it after katrina

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
Paul jeslats August 15 2014 at 10:36 AM

What makes it a "dump" are the drunken tourists that feel the need to act like jackasses when they arrive. That and people like this fat woman that has set up shop with her cigarette in her mouth (gee how did she afford cigarettes???)

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
dpj1959 Paul August 16 2014 at 7:23 PM

Guess you have not been to Bourbon street.........

Flag 0 rate up
brenhatestwinkie jeslats August 16 2014 at 9:41 PM

go burn your area, i bet it's a cesspool

Flag Reply 0 rate up
B N August 15 2014 at 1:35 AM

""In my opinion, the football season takes precedence. They want to clear it out for tailgating and parking," Holmes said.""

Honestly that sounds uhm... pretty reasonable? Using parking for a parking lot and a place of business as a place of business? Hopefully all the folk under that bridge end up in a better place and not back in a parking lot.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
Paul B N August 15 2014 at 10:49 AM

ANd thats the stupid part . There is a mission ACROSS THE STREET WHERE THEY ARE under the bridge that take in homeless. But as one of the brainiacs who camps out remarked to a reporter" they got rules , man. Ain't nobody telling me what to do".

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2 replies
Dan Paul August 15 2014 at 2:09 PM

I've seen homeless people begging for handouts in front of fast food places with help wanted signs in the window. ♣

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rxpharmd Paul August 15 2014 at 2:20 PM

And that attitude it primarily what led them to be homeless in the first place. It is a choice. Really a bunch of little choices throughout life that lead to the end result of homelessness. We are a sum of our choices throughout life. Baring mental illness, most of these people are homless due to choices they have made since about the age of 12.

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klasakt B N August 16 2014 at 4:45 PM

@ Paul ... You just hit the nail squarely on the head. They don't want to take any personal responsibilty for themselves and don't want to live in a society with rules that they may not like. BUT they will tell you that if you are a Christian it is your duty to support them without any reciprocation on their part. See it and hear it daily!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
bullmesht August 15 2014 at 9:13 AM

amazing she has money for cigarettes.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
evnsaffl August 16 2014 at 11:29 AM

They force U.S. citizens out, yet open our borders to millions of those who are undocumented.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Velocity105 August 15 2014 at 8:42 AM

Those homeless people sure look well-fed.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
freynalei August 15 2014 at 12:30 AM

gosh, no comments....really?

where are the occupy vermin when you need them?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
redwingirish August 15 2014 at 1:34 AM

Why not move them all to crawford texas so they can meet the "man" who made them homeless?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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