Sunday morning during an early walk through the CBD and French Quarter, I encountered more than two dozen homeless men and women sleeping in the doorways of some of our city’s most fashionable establishments. While I paused to shoot a photograph on Royal Street, a State Police cruiser passed right by, unfazed. Whether people are sleeping (or eating or anything even more personal) in a vestibule, outside the Cabildo, or along the Moonwalk, it’s an unsightly, unsanitary situation that negatively impacts tourism and everyone’s quality of life.
The NOPD has the ability to pick up those who sleep in public places and bring them to Marlin Gusman’s already over-crowded prison where they will take full advantage of the city’s limited resources and bed space for two weeks or more. In the winter, many may even want to get picked up to enjoy a warm bed and three square meals.
The City is correct in fencing under the bridge. Unity for the Homeless is on point in their quest to develop a day facility with showers and lockers, if they can identify an appropriate location which their clients can reach easily. Agencies including the New Orleans Mission do a great job of working with those who want help. But many — like a man I will call “Sam” — don’t want help.
Sam collects disability due to a childhood malady. Therefore, he is a candidate for food stamps, a housing voucher, and “free” health care. He could benefit from job training and might even be able to find a part-time job. Instead he spends his days as a “doorman” at a downtown convenience store.
Many of our out-of-state homeless “visitors” should just move on. It would be cheaper to buy them a ticket “home” or to their next warm weather destination than allowing them to consume more of our city’s precious resources.
Police don’t want to be bothered with picking up the homeless. A better solution must be found.
TWO APRIL 9TH TAX PROPOSALS DESERVE PUBLIC SUPPORT
Who among us wants to pay additional taxes? Who believes the City needs to improve street lights, sidewalks, curbs and drainage? Who believes firefighters need to keep up their trucks and equipment? Who believes we need better recreational facilities? Who believes we need more police?
The City of New Orleans is placing two bond proposals on the April 9 ballot – one for streets and capital improvements and one for police and fire needs. The city asserts that there will be no increase in the current tax rate need to fund the “relatively modest” streets and capital improvements bond proposition. Many citizens should consider supporting it.
Even the generally tax-averse Bureau of Governmental Research called the streets and capital improvements proposal a “more holistic approach.” Let’s be clear — there will still be a long-term need to find more funding for routine street maintenance sorely needed in many portions of Uptown, Gentilly and Lakeview. BGR says the City should also figure out how to align the life expectancy of specific capital improvements with the duration of the bond repayment period.
Also on the same ballot is a second proposition which would require a tax increase. It will support fire and police, with two-thirds of the funds dedicated to recruiting, hiring, equipping and paying for more police officers. There’s no question that many residents are not safe and that the current police force cannot keep up with New Orleans’ crime.
It’s also not fair that New Orleans firefighters should have to wait decades to get the retirement money the city owes them. We also need more fire fighters to fully staff existing operations. Who would want a fire truck coming to their home or business without a full crew?
As BGR suggested, the administration and the City Council must monitor the use of all these funds to ensure hiring and other goals are met. With elections less than two years away, the voters will be demanding accountability.
Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. She currently works for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.