WDSU: Council Approves Controversial Homeless Center

Esplanade Ridge Residents Worry About Odyssey House

POSTED: 4:34 pm CDT September 16, 2010

NEW ORLEANS — The City Council approved a plan Thursday for an apartment complex for the homeless to move forward, but neighbors in the Esplanade Ridge community said the fight is far from over.

The split vote of 4-3 reflected the conflict between residents about the 40-unit complex known as Odyssey House.

“Half will be people with medical frailty who are homeless people, so they will no longer be homeless anymore,” said Martha Kegel of UNITY of Greater New Orleans.

The other tenants will be low-income workers.

“I am very confident that we are going to persuade them that this building is going to be a great asset to the neighborhood,” Kegel said. “It’s going to be a building that I would be very proud and happy to live next to.”

For the project to move forward, the Odyssey House would have to demolish part of the building to make room for parking. That plan had previously been denied. On Thursday, the council overruled, but some people in the neighborhood said homeless advocacy groups are not playing by the rules.

“They still have not presented any firm plans,” said Michele Braden of the Esplanade Ridge-Treme Civic Association. “They have not (had an) engineering report. Too much is not in place for them to have received this. They are a big organization, very wealthy.”

Demolition aside, signs have popped up in the neighborhood opposing the development. The complex sits among the stately homes that line Esplanade Avenue, not far from John McDonogh High School.

Neighbors said their community is becoming saturated with programs like this, and security is a concern.

“They are anything but planning to be good neighbors,” Braden said. “The impact is going to be totally negative on our neighborhood if they are allowed to go forward. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough good people in government to take care of our neighborhoods.”

Members of the Esplanade Ridge Neighborhood Association said they are still weighing their options, even if that means filing an injunction against the council’s decision.

Copyright 2010 by WDSU.com. All rights reserved.

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