If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s what city officials in New Orleans seem to be saying following the latest push to clear “tent city,” an eyesore under the Pontchartrain Expressway where several hundred homeless people, their belongings, and trash fill the area.
The New Orleans City Council took the move a step further by passing an ordinance that bans tents and sofas from streets and rights of way, but that hasn’t stopped the homeless from encamping or loitering.
Although there has been talk about turning the area into a gated parking lot, a source says the front-running solution is to convert the dirty area into “festival grounds” and pretend the homeless are just regular people having a good time at another of the city’s many celebrations. This approach reportedly will reposition the lackluster area as one of the hottest, most popular locations in the city.
“People kept complaining about the growing homeless and panhandling problem, so we really wanted to think outside the box and finally solve this issue,” said a city official speaking on condition of anonymity because ‘homeless fest’ has not yet been announced.
“They already have the alcohol under there and everyone loves a party, right? So we figured this is a great opportunity to change the public’s perception and make everyone happy.”
New Orleans, long known for its numerous festivals held throughout the year, already welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year for events like Cajun-Zydeco Fest, Creole Tomato Fest, Louisiana Seafood Fest, and others. It seems as though another festival has found a home, ironically, among the homeless.