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Frustrated with homeless encampment, business owner posts strong message to mayor

1 year 3 months 6 days ago Tuesday, April 18 2023 Apr 18, 2023 April 18, 2023 8:08 PM April 18, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A business owner says she's frustrated with having to clean up after a homeless group daily.

The frustration reached a boiling point Tuesday when Erinn Shaw posted a message for the mayor on her sign board, asking for help cleaning up the trash left behind.

The sign says, "Mayor Broome, I thought you were supposed to be getting rid of the homeless and the trash. I'm not seeing any of that, it has gotten ridiculous. Don't vote Broome!"

Three days in a row, the owner of Young Fashions Uniforms on Coursey Boulevard says she has pulled several shopping carts full of items to the curb. It's become part of her morning routine and she doesn't think it should be.

"I don't have an hour to spend on that when I come in in the morning," Shaw said.

For the past decade, Shaw says she's had homeless people hang out on and off in the rear of her building. As a family-owned business she doesn't want the clutter.

"I can't just leave it because it gets worse and worse. At some point, there's going to be an encampment the length of my building," she said.

Shaw's message to the mayor is shining bright for all drivers to see. She wants everyone - especially the mayor - to know what's going on.

"Something has got to be done. It's gotten beyond ridiculous."

So far, Shaw says her other calls for a solution haven't put a stop to anything. The area where the homeless gather is between Shaw's building and a residential neighborhood fence line. She says the parish won't let her install a fence to block the area off because it's a servitude. Shaw says the residents living on the other side of the fence have been calling the police to come help, but since the homeless aren't on private property they technically aren't trespassing.

"I don't know what else to do at this point. I'm just at a loss," she said.

The city-parish offer a few solutions to people who may be experiencing issues with homeless encampments. They suggest contacting law enforcement if there is an active encampment on your private property, particularly in abandoned structures or in wooded areas. If the encampment is not on private property, contact 311, the mayor's office, and your council member for help.

The fentanyl and opioid crisis continues, which is greatly contributing to the homelessness and mental health challenges in communities across the country. To address this challenge, the city has invested in several resources, including housing.

  • $49 million in Emergency Rental Assistance in 2021 and 2022 for 9,766 households including those who were homeless or in danger of being homeless
  • $175,000 allocations in 2022 for homelessness services and shelter operations, including the One Stop
  • $270,000 allocations in 2023 for shelter operations. In the past, these funds have gone to One Stop, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, etc.
  • $325,000 dedicated to YWCA for short term emergency housing
  • $5 million HOME ARP action plan, pending approval by HUD, which includes 110 housing solutions for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • HOT Team; two teams (BRPD and EBRSO) with behavioral health experts visit encampments twice a week. The teams build relationships with dozens of homeless individuals, helping them to sign up for resources to get them housed. This often involves helping the individuals acquire the required documentation and identification to apply for disability insurance or other programs, to obtain recurring funding for long-term housing.
  • The city is also working to establish a Comprehensive Housing Plan for low-income working people, since 52% of EBR residents spend more than 1/3 income on housing. Baton Rouge has the 19th highest eviction rate in the country.

The city-parish says the HOT Team will be visiting Shaw's business in the near future.

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