Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Still here... just busy

Hi everyone, I know it's been a long time since my last posting. I've gotta put everything on hold while I complete my second year of medical school. I did however, have the privilege to meet with Dr. James Withers of Operation Safety Net (, a doctor who conducts street rounds with the homeless. Check out the website!! Anyways, the research project is STILL ON, but on the shelf for a couple of more months. Darn USMLE...
BTW... thanks for the emails, please contact me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

back under way

Hi everyone, thanks for all of the responses. This week, I visited the bridge to find that the population has drastically decreased. I would estimate that there was may be a total of 30 people under the bridge when I was there (about 2pm).... just two months ago, there were hundreds under the overpass. I asked around, and it seems to be the same story. Many folks are being arrested, and others are being given hotel rooms by UNITY.

After visiting the bridge-folk, I headed to the French Quarter. At the Riverwalk, there are several locations where homeless hang out. I met four men sitting under some trees near the Holocaust Memorial statue. There was a total of about 12 homeless in that area. I will call the four who I talked to Charles, Peter, Larry and John. John had been homeless for a few days at a time, long ago... but this recent stint on the streets has lasted him a couple of months. Charles originally came from Mississippi, where he was living with family. He ended up homeless in New Orleans with his guitar, so he plays blues and country songs on the Riverwalk to passers-by. He played a couple of tunes for me, and I was pretty impressed. Peter didn't say much... Larry didn't say much to me either. He waits for tourists to come by and gives Mardi-Gras beads to their children, hoping that the parents will feel obliged to hand him some money.

During my lengthy conversation with Charles and John, I learned that the homeless on the River and in Jackson Square do not receive the aid from UNITY and other aid organizations that the folks under the bridge are getting. They stated that there is a LOT more crime under the bridge and that they stay as far away from it as possible... so much so that they visit the St. Joseph Rebuild Center (which is located near the bridge settlement) quite rarely. They also talked about the "gutter punks (a population of semi-homeless teenage kids who wandered into the city following the hurricane)." Charles and John stated that these gutter punks are causing problems for the homeless community with law enforcement. It seems that the folks on the Riverwalk are pretty chill and try to stay out of trouble as much as possible. Many sleep in other locations than the Riverwalk, at night. They mentioned a location at the Jax Brewery (an isolated patio), as well as some locations in neighboring parking lots. They just have to be careful, as the cops will frequently sweep these locations.

After listening to several songs performed by Charles on his guitar, I headed to Jackson Square, where I knew there was a group of homeless.... only to find that they were all gone. I chatted with a couple of folks who seemed to be Jackson Square regulars, and they affirmed my suspicions: NOPD had just performed a sweep of the Square, the night before. I asked where all the homeless went, and they both answered "jail." It will be a week or so before they all come back, so I plan to revisit the Square next weekend, or so.

I am putting together a study, from which I hope to gather much-needed data about the homeless population of New Orleans, so there will be more frequent postings, as I go out and gather more background information and seek out more homeless.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hello, everyone.... long time, I know... it's the end of the school year, so I've been preoccupied with exams... as usual.

Last week, I was out at the French Market (in the French Quarter) and happened to see Dale walking around and chatted with him for a while. I would say that his condition has improved by 200%. He still has his house, has a job, added ANOTHER dog to his family, and looks happy. I just wanted to add his example as a success story. Yes folks, homeless people can be successfully returned to society.... it just takes time and work.

Another development: Richard Brucker (the student that put together the homeless healthcare flyers) has created a website. The site lists all the locations that provide free healthcare for the homeless in New Orleans. You can see it here.

My updates will continue to be sparse for the next few weeks, but I hope to get back on the streets by the end of May.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"the word on the street"

As there is seldom any legitimate news coverage of the homeless under the overpass, I have to rely on the "word on the street" to keep up to date on the happenings in the tent encampment. The "word" is useful, because it allows me to track the development of the camp, but it must be taken with many grains of salt, since it is all based on hearsay. I mention all of this, because the only news I have today is street-talk...

Multiple homeless individuals have stated to me that the police are now fining people for feeding homeless under the overpass. Usually, for the duration of my visits (which last from 30m to 1h30m), I will see 2 to 3 cars drive by with food for the homeless. Today, I noticed that there were no food deliveries during my visit. Also, many approached me asking for food, complaining that food deliveries are coming less frequently.

Other street news is that many homeless are leaving the city. The electrician that I met yesterday was leaving for Houston just as I arrived. I cannot say for sure, but it seems that those homeless who had hopes for easy-to-find jobs and nice weather are quickly becoming disillusioned. It's starting to get hot outside, and the police are not getting friendlier. Many are just getting "fed up" with waiting for help, and have decided to move on.

Of course, this ONLY pertains to the homeless under the overpass... there are MANY other homeless sites around the city (which I hope to visit)... the situation in those locations may be COMPLETELY different....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

update from the overpass

I finally found time to hang out under the bridge, again. There are fewer people living on the side of the encampment lying closer to Tulane Avenue. I talked to two individuals, "Tennessee" and Charles, who stated that UNITY has been removing the individuals with medical problems and finding them housing in hotel rooms.

Funny enough, I was reading UNITY's website this morning, and found some data from a recent survey they conducted under the overpass. You can read the powerpoint presentation here. The survey focused on the prevalence of health conditions that can relate to morbidity in the homeless. Part of the conclusion discussed the removal of homeless individuals with higher risk for morbidity from the overpass.

Tennessee also stated that many homeless are being arrested and sent to jail, as well. NOPD is arresting individuals for standing on the side of the road with signs and panhandling, as well as for public drunkenness.

Walking further down the row, I met up with Steve from Homeless Pride. He also confirmed that UNITY has been removing people from the encampment.
I also met several individuals sitting closer to Canal Street, one of which had just arrived from Ohio. His house burnt down, and he came to N.O. with prospects for work (being that he is an electrician), and for the warm weather.

I also met a man who had just been told that he has diabetes and hypertension. He was pretty freaked out about this, as he had no IDEA that he ever had these conditions in the past. Hearing that I am a medical student, he asked me for help regarding procurement of medications. As I cannot prescribe drugs, I could only direct him to some nearby locations where medical care is being provided for the homeless. Apparently, he had already gone to a couple of places, and at one (he couldn't remember which), he was refused because he didn't "qualify"... he marched out without asking WHY he was unqualified for medications (I would really like to know). Another location told him that they did not have the funds available. I am going to return tomorrow with some more flyers for these guys, so they can get some medical care.

I moved out to the other side of the overpass camp (closer to the "Riverside"). It was definitely MORE built up than I have seen in the past. The people there seemed more resistant to UNITY, but I could not get a clear picture as to why. It SEEMS that they are looking for a more permanent solution than a hotel room. Many kept stating that broken down houses and buildings left over from Katrina should be re-built and used to house homeless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A House for DALE!!

I apologize for the long break in blog posts... I've been dealing with exams and Spring Break.

After my last exam on Friday, I stopped by the I-10 bridge on the way to my car to chat with the homeless. I was lucky to catch up with Dale. He informed me that he found a house in the 9th Ward (I think I remember him stating that it was with UNITY). He's signed a lease for a year, and is working, gutting houses. I was so excited to hear the good news. Dale took his two dogs (he adopted another one, after some folks left theirs under the bridge) and all of his belongings from the encampment and brought them to his new place.

Although things are improving, they are FAR from perfect. Dale and I keep in touch via cellphone (as he has just acquired one), and I recently had another chat with him. Apparently his current employer is not paying him for the past several weeks of work. This is not an isolated incident. Many folks under the bridge have been complaining of the same thing. They have jobs in the hope that they will be able to raise enough income to get, and maintain, an apartment, but employers (mostly in the construction business) are taking advantage of the homeless' compromised condition.

Don't worry... there is more to come... so stay posted.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A quick survey...

Hey, everyone... I've noticed that my blog is getting more traffic, so I was wondering how good this blog actually is. I have one survey question posted on the right side of this screen... if you could just pick one of the choices, so I have an idea as to how you feel about this blog, I would really appreciate it. If you have ANY suggestions about this blog, or our activities with the homeless, PLEASE e-mail them to me at