New Orleans police did not advise individuals living in a homeless encampment at Calliope and Camp streets to disperse Wednesday evening or conduct any type of sweep of the area, according to Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the Police Department.
Gamble’s statement Thursday clashes with a story told by numerous individuals at the camp, who said multiple police cars pulled up on Camp Street about 6 p.m. Wednesday. The individuals said officers told them they would have to vacate the patch of grass that’s morphed into a tent city over the past two weeks.
According to Gamble, officers made three visits to the area between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m.
All three of those visits were for reported disturbances. The reports all proved to be unfounded and no arrests were made, Gamble said.
Residents in the area have been clamoring for the past two weeks for city officials to close the camp, where about 30 homeless individuals have pitched tents.
In an email sent Thursday morning to city officials, Jeff Keiser, who lives a block from the encampment, railed against what he believes has been an inept response from City Hall on the problem.
“The city has allowed this problem to develop and has essentially invited these criminals to our neighborhood with full knowledge of their intent to break the law,” Keiser wrote.
Keiser and a handful of his neighbors have been bombarding city officials with emails over the past two weeks, pleading for them to shut down the camp, which they describe as a dangerous eyesore.
There have been almost no crimes reported within a 500-foot radius of the camp since the homeless took up residence there Aug. 14, according to data from the NOPD’s online crime map.
A residence burglary was reported about a block from the encampment, in the 1200 block of Camp Street, on Aug. 19.
The city removed about 160 homeless individuals from under the Pontchartrain Expressway a few blocks away two weeks ago, stating the area was a public health hazard. The homeless in that case were given 72 hours’ advance notification, and 84 of them were placed in local shelters.
Garnesha Crawford, a spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said Thursday that the city “urges the homeless to take advantage of the help being offered by over 60 homeless providers.”
She also said the city is ready to enforce a more stringent law that would help clear smaller camps across the city that pose a public health and safety threat.
The reference was to an ordinance, proposed by City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, that would strengthen the city’s right to remove tents, furniture and other items from public rights of way.
The ordinance was reviewed by the City Council at a meeting last week but did not come up for a vote.
It has come under fire from some homeless advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, both of whom suggested it might be unconstitutional.
Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University, asked the city in a letter sent Tuesday to modify the ordinance to provide 72 hours’ notice to the homeless prior to any sweep, ensure they won’t face criminal prosecution and guarantee that the property of homeless individuals won’t be destroyed without due process.