Paid parking to force homeless from underneath Pontchartrain Exp - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Paid parking to force homeless from underneath Pontchartrain Expressway

Area will be cleared for paid parking. (FOX 8 Photo) Area will be cleared for paid parking. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

New Orleans officials plan to make a profit by clearing out a homeless camp and setting up paid parking lots downtown.  

The lots underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway act as a harbor for the city's homeless population. It's one of the several spots many use as shelter, but the four-block area along Calliope Street from St. Charles Ave. to Loyola Drive will not shelter the homeless much longer. 

Crews will fence in the 300 parking spots and lease the area to a company who will manage it. 

"There's a lot of people that call their home under the bridge and that's not the best place to call home," New Orleans Mission's Steve Scaffidi said. 

The mission supports the city's move and hopes when many homeless get displaced, they will seek shelter with the organization.    

"We don't turn anybody down. We go over there and try to encourage people to come to the mission, but some people don't want to come. They prefer to be out there for whatever reason that may be," Scaffidi said. 

The New Orleans Mission is across the street from the encampment where about a 100 people live. Some believe fencing the area to make it a parking lot will only force homeless people to other parts of the city.  

"It shows no humanity at all, and there's no solution to this problem of people having to live under this bridge because this is protection from the weather, essentially," volunteer Claire Wilson said. "You kick people out to make your profit. Where you going to send them?" 

Wilson described the city's push as greedy.  

"People think homeless people are a problem or blight, but they're not willing to help anyone out or find a real solution to the problem," Wilson said. 

Business owners near the encampment see the move as an opportunity to increase property value and provide a better atmosphere for customers. 

"We know that we need them to have homes, but in front of business I think it's better that they have a shelter or facility of some type to live in," business owner Jarren Pierce said. "With the mission being across the street from where they're at so they have the potential to go there, so it's like why not go there? It's going to be a good thing and a negative for the city to have to handle because obviously the people need somewhere to stay and be at."

A city spokesman said once the fences go up, the lots will remain closed to parking until an operator is selected. Until then, there is no word on how much the parking spots will cost.  
 

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