Notes from New Orleans: Plan to Create Homes for the Homeless Meets with Resistance

Posted on: January 25th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

I attended a meeting convened by Councilwoman Stacy Head about a proposed 86-unit residence in the Central Business District that would house renters with incomes at or below 60 percent of the average median income along with the formerly homeless. Most of the group at the meeting was made up of nearby business owners or developers of condo projects in the vicinity.

Several issues arose: the new building as proposed would require the demolition of two 19th century buildings, which have been neglected and altered over the years; the CBD is awash with surface parking lots which could accommodate the structure elsewhere; the businesses and developers didn’t want a facility of this type in their backyards. The councilwoman agreed to reopen the search for a site after developers offered to help provide possible locations which could still make the numbers work.

The city has a chronic shortage of housing and services for the homeless. This project would address only a fraction of the need, but would be the first of its kind in the city. Unity for the Homeless, an umbrella group of service providers, has estimated that the number of homeless people in New Orleans stands at 12,000 -- twice the number pre-Katrina.

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