March 8, 2024 6:00am

New Orleans falters in addressing homelessness, Power Poll says

Almost 60% of respondents grade Cantrell administration D or F

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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Efforts by Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administrration to address homelessness in New Orleans earned dismal grades from community influencers in this week's Power Poll. Almost 60% of respondents handed out a D or F.

The issue has taken on a civic and political urgency this year as New Orleans seeks to put its best foot forward in hosting the 2025 Super Bowl 11 months from now. Before Mardi Gras, the Cantrell administration removed more than 50 street campers to subsidized apartments.

But New Orleans' low-barrier homeless shelter suffers from drug dealing, insufficient security and inadequate services, residents and homeless advocates told The Times-Picayune. The Cantrell administration was consistently late paying the contractor that ran the shelter, and the next operator might need twice as much government money.

"Mayor Cantrell has taken the right policy approach to homelessness, including opening the low-barrier shelter and emphasizing housing first," lawyer Marjorie Esman said. "The implementation has not met the goals, including the recently revealed missed payments to the shelter operator. The best policies can only work if they are properly implemented, and that needs to be improved."

Michael Williamson, president and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana, said progress has been made. But he gave much credit to City Council member Lesli Harris "for her steadfast leadership and help in making this all possible."

Raves for recycling

Another quality of life issue has erupted next door in Jefferson Parish, where the Parish Council abruptly ended curbside collection of household recyclables. The service was too expensive and under-used, critics said.

Three quarters of Power Poll responsdents, however, said it's important that local government offer curbside recycling, and now the Parish Council, amid an uproar, is considering opening dropoff sites for residents to deposit their recyclables.

"Giving Jefferson Parish residents the option to recycle is absolutely necessary. I am willing to pay, as are others I have spoken with, to have our recyclables picked up weekly," said Sherri Tarr, chief operating officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. "But I also understand that it is not cost-effective for everyone."

Crime bills

On statewide matters, half of the Power Poll respondents doubt that the criminal justice measures approved this year by the Legislature and Gov. Jeff Landry will make the state safer.

Advocates for gun owners and crime victims generally favored Landry's priorities. Dissent came from law enforcers and public policy groups who said the measures do little to address the causes of crime.

Property insurance

And half of the poll respondents express little to no confidence in Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple's indusry-friendly proposals to incentivize competition and choice in the Louisiana property insurance market.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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