Where will 150 evacuated homeless people go? - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Where will 150 evacuated homeless people go?

Updated:
NEW ORLEANS, (WVUE) -

Monday night, the estimated 150 homeless people sleeping under the Pontchartrain Expressway were given 72 hours to clean up their tents and leave.

The city said conditions have become a health hazard because sanitation workers and mosquito control have not been able to clean the area.

Many homeless people living under the bridge told FOX 8 they don't plan to move to shelters because of bad past experiences with theft and because of rumors of rats and cockroaches in the buildings.

Ervin Davis, 53, prays for a different permanent solution.

"We didn't ask for this, and each and every individual in this circle is willing to come out of this. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes," Davis said.

Davis said he moved to a more secluded section of the homeless encampment eight months ago as a last resort.

"I'm a certified cook, and there's nothing that I would rather do than walk again and cook in somebody's kitchen," said Davis.

Davis said both of his legs were amputated as a result of his diabetes, and he realized he couldn't pay rent while living off his disability check.

He said he found a community within the encampment that helped take care of him. Nine men live together in three tents. One of Davis' "roommates" didn't want to be identified but said, "There's a unity. We all like being around one another, we trust one another."

As many as 150 people are estimated to live under the Pontchartrain Expressway, and the director of the New Orleans Health Department said it's now a serious health concern.

"You can imagine with the accumulation of food and other items under there it's almost been impossible for us to clean it up as best we can," said Director Charlotte Parent. "So, we're at the point that because of the rodents and because of the debris that's there, we really need to get under there and clean it out."

Parent said the city is working with the New Orleans Mission, Salvation Army and other shelters to ensure that there will be enough beds for everyone. It's a solution the city has tried before, but this time, Parent said, they'll be putting up barricades so people will have a harder time returning.

"The issue is not going to go away totally, but how can we do our best to get our citizens in the right places and decrease the opportunity for that camp to build up again?" she asked.

Davis said because of past experiences with theft and other problems, many people won't agree to go to the shelters, him included.

"Seventy-two hours? I'll find another spot. I'll find another spot," Davis said.

Davis said he'll pray for a more permanent and safe solution for him and his homeless community.

Parking under the expressway also will no longer be allowed. The city wants the entire area clear for cleaning.

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