Homeless encampment at Tchoupitoulas & Calliope cleared, 30 individuals secure housing
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans city crews spent Friday morning (Nov. 17) clearing a homeless encampment near Tchoupitoulas and Calliope streets, forcing nearly 100 people to move from the area.
According to flyers posted in the area, non-compliance could result in hundreds of dollars in fines or even imprisonment for repeat offenders.
This is part of the Cantrell Administration’s plan to reduce homelessness in the city. “UNITY of Greater New Orleans” is partnering with the city to re-house most of the people in the encampment, while local shelters said they’re bracing for an increase in people turning to them for a place to stay.
Barricades surround the now barren corner of Tchoupitoulas and Calliope. What was once home to dozens of unhoused individuals now sits without a trace of tents and remnants of trash.
“I’ve heard people say those people don’t want to be housed. That’s not true,” said Clarence Adams, CEO of Ozanam Inn.
The city of New Orleans is using rapid rehousing dollars and leaning on partners like UNITY of Greater New Orleans. Executive Director Martha Kegel said 30 people who lived in that encampment, most of them with disabilities, are sleeping tonight in subsidized apartments.
“A few of them were couples. There was a mother and son pair who were hurricane survivors from Lake Charles and had been displaced for a very long time and had disabilities. So, there were a variety of people in the camp all with really sad stories, and I’m just so happy that all of us working together were able to house them,” said Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans.
“They get to sleep without worrying about being attacked and they have the security of knowing that they’re not going to be displaced again. That they really have a home. That they have safety and security that the rest of us take for granted.”
City Councilman Eugene Green stopped by a couple of times on Friday to see the progress and reassure residents the work happening in the area will also be done in his district and across New Orleans. He said it is important to note that those directly impacted are being offered the needed services.
“Which starts with housing and includes mental health. It includes drug addiction counseling and alike. But it’s moving people into a better situation,” said Eugene Green, city councilmember for District D. “We have a chance now because we know where people are that they also are going to be removed from some of the dangers that existed such as the crime and the drug addiction. They’re in a situation where we can stay in contact with them.”
Green said the line of care will continue, and the resources remain readily available.
Clarence Adams with Ozanam Inn said the city has asked for his input along with other advocates in the area and keeps him informed of things like Friday’s camp closure.
“If we have any issues, I definitely have the director of homeless services and the director of outreach for the city on speed dial,” said Clarence Adams, CEO of Ozanam Inn.
Adams has seen a recent increase in those seeking Ozanam Inn’s many services such as shelter, which he expected; however, he doesn’t know just yet whether to attribute that to the holidays, changes in weather, or the camp clean-up. Ozanam Inn sleeps 97 men and 59 women a night and is almost always at capacity. The shelter’s numbers, this year, being the highest they’ve ever been.
“Many of them sleep [in the encampments] because they can’t stay in the shelter because of the crowds, because of some of the rules that we may have here and some of the issues that they may have, but if they’re placed in housing with the supportive services that go with it then they can live a very normal life,” Adams said.
While visiting other areas, like under the Claiborne overpass, to see if individuals may have migrated to other camps, Fox 8 caught two schoolteachers in an act of kindness.
“It was really heartwarming,” Jasmine Rovaris said.
“We had a Thanksgiving potluck today and so all the extra food we had, instead of just throwing it away, we decided to bring it to the homeless,” Chyna McCormick said.
“And this is the season of giving thanks and giving back to the community,” said Jasmine Rovaris. “As a community it’s our job to help give back.”
UNITY hopes others feel the same way and is asking for donations of gently used household goods and furnishings as that is not provided in federal grants. Kegel said it took a lot of people coming together to make Friday happen including months’ worth of outreach. She said they were able to set people up with furnishings and move-in kits but the need for donations is still there and continues to grow.
Kegel explained the state provided funding for rent assistance and case management; meanwhile, the city will provide ongoing case management and rent assistance funding once the state funding runs out.
UNITY has been doing outreach for a long time and out on the streets daily, but Kegel said Friday’s move was a place-based strategy focusing on one specific camp.
UNITY has a community task force to reduce street homelessness that secured a huge federal grant that will arrive in January and has the resources to house 420 additional people off the street.
“Combining that with additional resources from the city and the state, we believe we can house virtually every person on the street in the coming year, and we continue the work as we speak. We’re working in a variety of camps,” Kegel said.
She said they need a continued commitment from everyone to keep the momentum going. Kegel believes what is driving homelessness is primarily the shortage of affordable rental housing.
“That’s what all the studies show determines whether one city has a high rate of homelessness relative to another. New Orleans has a terrible affordable housing crisis. Currently, the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,150 a month and about a quarter of our cities people are living below the poverty line. How are they supposed to afford these rents? So, everyday people are showing up on the street and in shelter who weren’t homeless the day before,” Kegel said.
Kegel said the resources that they’ve normally had access to have been inadequate in keeping up with the inflow of people falling into homelessness.
“The extremely high rents are being driven by pandemic-induced inflation on top of the property insurance rates doubling, and now we’re told that the flood insurance rates are about to skyrocket, as well, and all of that drives rent up as well, and of course the landlords pass that on to the tenants,” Kegel said.
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