Deadline comes and goes for homeless to leave camp under expressway

Published: Sep. 14, 2014 at 2:52 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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Homeless camp under Pontchartrain Expressway
Homeless camp under Pontchartrain Expressway

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The deadline for homeless people to leave a camp set up under the Pontchartrain Expressway has come and gone, without any action from the city. People living at the intersection of Camp and Calliope were told earlier this week, they'd have to remove their tents and all personal belongings by 8:00 Saturday night, after the city council passed an ordinance requiring a move.

The homeless we spoke to expected NOPD officers to show up and forcefully remove them but when we went to the site around 9:00, that still hadn't happened. When it does, many people say they don't know where they're going to go.

Juston Winfield, 25, has lived under the Pontchartrain Expressway for the past two and a half months. "I'm out here because it's hard to find employment in the City of New Orleans that's gonna actually be able to take care of me," Winfield explained.

With a new ordinance prohibiting Winfield and others from staying here, many say they don't know where to turn. "It's not like I'm unruly. I'm not a drug addict, I'm not an alcoholic, I'm just homeless," said Angela Malone.

Donald Smith adds, "There are no other alternatives."

Local shelters have space available but some under the bridge say staying at a shelter isn't ideal. Malone explained, "When you check into a shelter, you're only there for certain hours. You leave at 6:00 in the morning with all of your possessions and you're still being shuffled around. At least when you sleep on the street, you know there's a place to put your things."

City council members crafted the new ordinance banning tents and furniture in public right of ways due in part to complaints they received about health hazards under the bridge. Winfield admits trash often builds up and rats run rampant but he insists the 20 or so people living at Calliope and Camp tried to clean up after themselves, in an effort to save their small living space.

Last month, the city moved this group and others from a section under the bridge between St. Charles and South Claiborne. Angela Malone says she doesn't want to be forced out again. "I am wondering what it is the city will allow and what they will not allow. I know there are curfews in city parks and you can't sleep in city parks or public libraries but I don't know where they will allow us to go," Malone said.

For now, Calliope and Camp isn't an option.

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