NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— The City of New Orleans wants to make sure all of its residents, including the homeless community, are not living in a public health hazard.
“I just got that couch the other day and got it to where I can not be on the ground. It’s nice to not lay in a bed on the ground but in a couch I can sit on. and it was hell getting it here but I enjoyed it for a day or two before they came by and took it,” Stephen Clark, homeless.
Stephen Clark is just one of the many living under the Pontchartrain Expressway and just like others, his couch and several items were taken away by city sanitation workers.
The Health Department routinely conducts cleaning of encampments in an effort to promote public health.
“Any item that poses a public health threat. This is a public health initiative. We’re not concerned so much with the eyesore. That’s not our job, our job is actually conducting remediation. So a big issue for us is rodents, so couches, large furniture items that actually does promote rat harborage and that’s something that we really need to go after,” Tim Murphy, N.O. Health Department Environmental Health Coordinator.
City officials have set out signs to alert those living on the street, of what is prohibited but Clark said his needed possessions are being taken away.
“Anything that makes you comfortable, sofa, mattress they said it’s a health code violation. It just doesn’t make any sense. If that’s the case any person with a couch and mattress at home is a health risk,” said Stephen Clark.
Residents in the community with a growing homeless population have complained that the city’s actions of providing port-o-lets and allowing them to stay, is not helping the problem. The Health Department denies the claims.
“Before those port-o-lets were out there we saw a large amount of feces on the ground. You still might see it but its reduced drastically since putting out the port-o-lets and hand washing stations throughout the city,” said Tim Murphy.
Advocates for the homeless says more affordable housing is the answer to getting people off the streets. Clark says he is trying.
“Just going to the red tape basically, of filling out paperwork and waiting to get approved. It’s a long process. It takes a little while,” said Stephen Clark.