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Push to re-initiate homeless housing program amid surging Covid cases and “street sweeps”

Updated: Dec. 26, 2020 at 9:24 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Without the city prioritizing the health of the homeless across New Orleans, housing advocates say it’s putting the rest of the city at risk.

This comes after concern that sweeps of homeless camps are still ongoing.

The holidays can be a lonely time, but particularly if someone finds themselves without a permanent home.

“We have single men, single women, families, it’s a very diverse population,’ said Clarence Adams with the Ozanam Inn.

That’s why Adams says they’re seeing more folks knock on their doors looking for help.

“There’s a lot more people on the streets now than they were during the heart of the pandemic,” Adams said.

Adams says because of social distancing, they cannot house as many people as they’d like, which is why he says it would help not only the homeless but the entire city if leaders re-initiated an effort to house the homeless again.

“The bottom line is putting them into permanent housing is the very best option,” Adams said.

Housing advocate, Davida Finger with Loyola University, says it’s in everyone’s best interest to provide the homeless more permanent housing during this time.

She says it’s especially wrong for the city to re-initiate what’s referred to as “street sweeps” that interrupt New Orleans’ homeless camps.

“The city has re-initiated doing homeless sweeps which means the city will go in with a sanitation truck very early in the morning while people are sleeping wake people up and begin throwing away property and dispersing people,” Finger said.

The city’s labeled these sweeps in past as sanitation and rodent abatement measures.

Finger and other advocacy groups wrote a letter to the city asking the sweeps to stop, saying the way they’re conducted violates the city’s code and by moving and clearing property like tents, it violates CDC guidelines.

“In these days where it’s getting colder, taking peoples blankets and mattresses intense is truly inhuman. The federal guidance calls for increasing sanitation putting handwashing stations giving out masks none of which we’ve seen occur in the city of New Orleans,” Finger said.

She estimates the city’s recently displaced hundreds from these camps, saying the best option is to again find more permanent housing for these folks in need as they did at the beginning of the pandemic, and in turn, help the entire city.

“It’s cold and Covid is continuing and in many ways and it’s worse, so using hotels and motels and going back to that program is a position that advocates are interested in,” Finger said.

We reached out to the city for their response on the sweeps but have not yet heard back.

In March, the city announced a program to house the homeless in hotels and motels across the city, but that program has since expired.

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