Driving through the City of New Orleans, you can't help but see a large contingent of homeless people and panhandlers. Now, the director of the New Orleans Mission, says he has a plan to help end the problem.
Addressing the tent city that's set up under the expressway, Mission director David Bottner says, "It isn't safe. It's not a condition or an environment for anyone to live in."
Bottner says only some living under the expressway are actually from the city. "A huge portion of the men and women on the street aren't local, they've come in so that's different from last year. The up tick that we're seeing is from transient folks coming into our city," Bottner explained.
While many live in tents, others who spend their days panhandling for money, actually have roofs over their heads. Bottner explains, "You have a lot of panhandlers, they've come and they're living in apartments but what happened was, they didn't have a job so they were put in an apartment but they weren't taught a skill."
The director of the mission wants to change that. Bottner has reached out to the city to see if the administration would consider giving the mission a contract for grass cutting services. He explains, "Instead of hiring a third party or another business, we're willing to hire homeless men and women, put them to work so instead of having them under the bridge sitting around all day, let us hire these folks, give them a job."
In turn, some of the wages they earn would be given back to the mission to help fund a dayroom. We asked a city spokesperson if the administration is considering the idea, but the response did not address Bottner's plan. Instead, we were told the administration is working on a plan to turn the area under the expressway into a public parking lot.
Solving the homeless problem is something Mayor Landrieu addressed just last week, when speaking about the importance of getting veterans off the street. "Unity and the City of New Orleans have produced a 10-year plan to end homelessness. We at one time in the not too distant past had 11,000 homeless American citizens on the street now we have approximately 2,200," said Mayor Landrieu.
While the number of homeless may be going down, Bottner says panhandling is much more prevalent. It's a dangerous situation that he says, needs to come to an end.
David Bottner strongly discourages people from giving money and even food and water to panhandlers, because it dissuades them from going to places like the mission and Ozanam Inn, which are equipped to get people off the streets.
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