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Homeless encampments take over O'Neal Lane underpass; city-parish, DOTD set to address

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BATON ROUGE - Homeless encampments have taken over the O'Neal Lane underpass and district officials are urging authorities to fix it.

Jennifer Richardson, the founder of Keep Tiger Town Beautiful, says keeping the site clean of rotten food, rats, used needles and stolen grocery carts is nearly impossible.

"It's one thing to be homeless. It's another thing to be disrespectful of your city," Richardson said.

Councilman for the district Dwight Hudson says the Department of Public Works has to clean the area at least every other month.

"It's been an area that's been extremely problematic for us. We've dealt with folks camping out in that area for about two years now. It's been an ongoing problem and we're doing our best to stay on top of it and keep the area cleaned up. It's proven to be very difficult," Hudson said.

Richardson says every time the area is cleaned up, it's not long before the sites are built up again. She says it's been less than a week since their last clean up and it is already a mess again.

"As soon as we start cleaning up they start rebuilding over there. Immediately. As soon as the police leave and it's clean they start rebuilding and hoarding. It's just a big hoard out there," Richardson said.

The same problem was occurring on Siegen Lane last year. LaDOTD installed metal barriers and barricades to keep the homeless out. Hudson and Richardson are hoping this same thing gets done soon on O'Neal.

But Hudson says putting barriers up on O'Neal would not be as easy because of the roadway's sheer size.

"It has a large, flat area underneath the girders that is tall enough for people to stand up underneath so just the way that the girders were designed and the way the overpass was designed, it's sort of inviting for that sort of thing," Hudson said.

Hudson says he has spoken with the mayor-president and DOTD about getting the funds for the project. He believes it would cost around $350,000.

"At the end of the day, city-parish is spending thousands and thousands of dollars and wasting a lot of manhours sending folks out there on a regular basis to clean it up. At the same time, the residents are having to deal with the blight and everything associated with the encampments," Hudson said.

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