The city continued its efforts to break up homeless encampments in the Central Business District on Thursday, evicting the homeless from a number of small camps near the Pontchartrain Expressway.
On Sunday night, camp inhabitants were given 72 hours to disperse, according to City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who said she supported the sweep because of worsening sanitary conditions.
Cantrell said the areas affected stretched roughly between Camp Street and South Claiborne Avenue near Calliope Street.
About a dozen homeless individuals packed up shopping carts full of tents, blankets and other belongings Thursday morning as they were escorted off a stretch of public property near Earhart Boulevard and Claiborne.
Billy, a 36-year-old homeless man who declined to give his last name, said he and others had arrived there the previous evening after receiving notices that they would be removed from a camp near Calliope and Camp streets.
“My question continues to be the same,” he said. “Where can we go?”
Angel Guidry, 37, said she didn’t want to go to a homeless shelter because she suffers from bipolar disorder and anxiety and is often overwhelmed by crowds.
Others said they declined to go to shelters because they felt they are unsafe or have nothing to offer.
“The centers can’t provide me with anything I can’t provide for myself,” said 27-year-old Alexander Gable Miller.
David Bottner, executive director of the New Orleans Mission, said his facility had taken in only one person from the sweeps as of 6 p.m. Thursday, compared to 37 during this summer’s sweep, when the city removed 165 homeless individuals from under the expressway.
While it was unclear how many people were living in the various camps, Bottner said the numbers were far smaller than in the past.
Immediately after the previous sweep, a smaller group of tents housing perhaps 20 individuals formed at Camp and Calliope streets, irking nearby residents.
Jeff Keiser, who lives in the area, said Thursday that he and his neighbors had been emailing city officials for months about what they considered to be unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the area.
Keiser said he was frustrated with how long it took the city to respond to the encampment but that he was grateful it had finally been dispersed.
“We are happy that they finally did something; we just hope they maintain the barricades and keep this area safe,” he said.
Keiser and others living in the area had been emailing pictures of trash and even human feces to a raft of public officials, imploring them to remove the homeless.
Cantrell, who represents District B, where the encampment was located, said the city’s Health Department has been closely monitoring the camp since it formed.
“It had been, at times, very orderly, but recently it turned a corner in terms of uncleanliness,” she said.
Cantrell framed the decision on whether to boot the homeless from the camps as a delicate one, with city officials striving to balance the rights of the homeless against quality-of-life issues for local residents and businesses.
She recently proposed an ordinance, passed 5-2 by the City Council in September, which provided the city with a stronger legal basis for removing tents, couches or other structures that impede public rights of way.
Cantrell said she also has traveled to San Antonio to learn more about a “no-barrier shelter” that has been erected there, which she thinks might benefit the city’s homeless population.
“No-barrier shelters” provide the homeless with shelter but don’t require those who check in to meet the typical requirements. Individuals who are inebriated, on drugs or have mental illness can be allowed in the facility, as long as they don’t pose a physical threat to others.
Cantrell said she thinks that by pooling city funds with contributions from businesses, a “no-barrier” shelter could be built in New Orleans in the near future and help house those who are unwilling to go to traditional shelters.