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City Council wrestles with ordinance to remove homeless

City Council chambers (Source: Rob Masson) City Council chambers (Source: Rob Masson)

The New Orleans City Council on Thursday tried to pass sweeping new measures to remove the homeless from traditional gathering spots such as under the Pontchartrain Expressway.

"The plan right now is to convert it to parking," said Eric Granderson with the Landrieu administration.

The area beneath the expressway remains clear after a big sweep one week ago, and city officials say it wasn't pretty.

"Feces was over 5 inches, and we had to call the fire department ... in protective gear," said Councilwoman Latoya Jackson.

"We will come back to the Council with a private vendor who would lease that place from the city," said Granderson.

But that area wasn't the only one the Council addressed to try and deal with the homeless problem. The Council is now considering a measure that would give it new powers to clear the homeless from portions of the French Quarter, Magazine Street and the Central Business District.

"This is more centered toward erecting a structure," said City Attorney Sharonda Williams.

But the debate got bogged down over enforcement provisions that called for a 72-hour notice.

"Where you gonna sweep them next, in the river?" said activist Sandra Wheeler Hester.

"You want us to pass it before we look at what the enforcement provisions will be?" asked Councilman James Gray.

The new homeless enforcement measure was tabled, but the city is still proceeding with potential private uses for cleared space.

Homeless advocates left angry, after waiting most of the day to speak out about the new ordinances. They will likely get their chance in committee, where the ordinance has been sent to be reworked.

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