NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A downtown business owner says he doesn’t know how much more he can take. He says the vandals have been costing him thousands of dollars and he says the city is now sending him bills for burglar alarms kicked off by the same people doing the vandalizing.
They are a constant presence at the corner of Poydras and Claiborne, a gateway for thousands of visitors entering downtown each day.
Cody Rome, 32, is one of dozens of people camping out nearby, and business owners, like Bob Mahoney, are having to deal with growing problems.
"Over the years now we find different sections being torn off or bent out of shape, like that one is," said Mahoney.
Not only is decorative iron work disappearing, but so are rain gutters, even an air conditioning unit.
“We came in and didn’t have any A/C in the warehouse,” said employee Matt Nicholls.
"Unfortunately some of the homeless have used our freight zone for doing their business," said Mahoney.
Recently employees at City Blueprint, noticed the back fence was down, on a business which has operated at Poydras and Claiborne for 46 years.
"Do you review this everyday?' we asked. “Only when we see something out of the ordinary,” said Nicholls.
The business owner recognizes the man in the surveillance video, uncovered after they notice the fence was down.
“It was already opened up,” said Cody Rome who is no stranger. He’s lived under the overpass for two years, and has to protect what little he has.
"They would steal it, they steal all my stuff all the time," said Rome.
As bad as this predicament is, Mahoney says he feels for the plight of the homeless, and tries to help out whenever he can.
Mahoney says he recently took some clothes home to wash for Rome.
“They help me out with water, I try not to bother them,” said Rome.
That’s an important point, says Martha Kegal, with the group Unity for the Homeless, the city’s go to agency for dealing with the problem. She says it’s important not to stereotype homeless people, since says she says are more often than not, not the ones committing crimes.
But Mahoney says the homeless are all around him.
"They ask us to charge their phones, and most of them are better than mine," said Mahoney.
On top of everything else, the city is now billing City Blueprint for false alarm calls, which Mahoney says are caused by the homeless, trying to enter his building.
“75 a pop adds up quickly, I can’t afford to continue to pay $75 because they’re yanking on our doors after hours,” said Mahoney, adding, “It’s things like this that puts thoughts in your mind, maybe it’s time to sell and get out.”
Though Mahoney says he's committed to the city, Cody Rome wants out too.
“Days roll by like weeks, and weeks go by like months,” said Rome.
But for now, he says he doesn't know how to move on.
“I kind of get to where I don’t even care about it no more.”
The city’s homeless agency issued a warning recently saying that the homeless problem was getting worse because of a lack of affordable housing.
Unity for the Homeless director Kegel says they will be holding meetings next week to assess the current problem, and consider new strategies.
As for the city charging City Blueprint for false alarms, police spokesman Gary Scheets told us today in a statement,
“We appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention, we will have a member of our command staff conduct a review and reach out to the business owner.”