City gives notice to clear tents, furniture from under expressway _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- The city has passed an ordinance banning furniture and tents from being erected in public right of ways. So the tents may be removed in the coming days by city workers.

A day after the city’s deadline for homeless people to get rid of tents and furniture erected under the Pontchartrain Expressway, a few hardy homesteaders could still be seen camping out there Sunday afternoon.

Four tents could be seen propped up at Camp and Calliope streets as a few homeless residents sprawled alongside personal items such as blankets, backpacks and suitcases.

Those who had learned to call the intersection home were given 72 hours’ notice Wednesday to relocate their “obstructions” by Saturday night. The ultimatum followed recent passage by the New Orleans City Council of an ordinance stating that furniture, tents and other items “not intended for outdoor use or other semipermanent structures” must be removed from public rights of way.

Saturday evening, as the city’s 8 p.m. deadline loomed, several of the homeless indicated they didn’t feel they had anywhere else to turn for shelter.

One homeless person, who refused to give his name for fear of retribution, explained that he had been in and out of shelters all year. He cited with frustration time limits that organizations such as the New Orleans Mission and the Salvation Army impose on how long people can stay there — saying that 21 days here or 10 days there wasn’t enough time to help someone like himself find both employment and housing.

“How do they expect us to get on our feet?” he asked.

This wasn’t the first time the city has demanded that homeless people remove their belongings from a public space. Many had moved to Camp and Calliope just a month ago, after the city forced the homeless to vacate a much larger camp under the Pontchartrain Expressway a few blocks away.

That camp, stretching between St. Charles and South Claiborne avenues, was cleared out even before the City Council passed the new ordinance prohibiting tents or furniture in public spaces. The camp was described as a public health hazard and was cleared so the city could rid the space of a reportedly growing rat infestation.

The new ordinance, introduced by City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, will also help the city maintain better public health, Cantrell said. While officials insist it wasn’t created to target the homeless population, it supports efforts to break up homeless encampments.

Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey voted against the ordinance, which passed 5-2. She said it would allow public officials to unfairly target the city’s most vulnerable population.