New Orleans police late Tuesday told a group of homeless people living in an encampment on a neutral ground at Camp and Calliope streets, under the Pontchartrain Expressway, that they would have to leave the area within hours, some inhabitants of the camp said.
Angela Malone, who sleeps in a tent under the expressway, said she was panhandling about 6 p.m. when three police cars pulled up on Camp Street.
She said an officer told her she needed to gather her belongings and leave before 10 p.m., when authorities would return and disperse the encampment.
“They said, ‘You’ll have to be out tonight due to a public health hazard,’ ” she said.
Scott, a 41-year-old man who also lives in the encampment, had a similar story.
“They just pulled up right in the street,” Scott said. “An officer pulled up and said, ‘You can’t stay here.’ ”
The story was confirmed by other homeless people who live in the encampment.
Many of them said they were worried that without more time to prepare, they would lose their belongings and have no place to go.
Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the Police Department, said officers had not “participated in any planned sweeps.”
A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The homeless population under the Pontchartrain Expressway has been much in the news lately, as nearby residents clamored for the camps to be removed, characterizing them as dangerous and an eyesore.
Earlier this month, about 160 homeless people were rousted from an encampment under the expressway that the city said was a health and safety hazard.
The boundaries of that sweep were South Claiborne and St. Charles avenues, but a new encampment soon popped up a few blocks closer to the river.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and others have been critical of the city’s efforts, saying that the rights of the homeless may be violated in such sweeps.