NEW ORLEANS — Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser wants to try again to put together a plan he says will provide help to the homeless in New Orleans, while also making the city's most popular tourist spots safer.
Nungesser says plans to address the issues never got off the ground, and warns time is running short to solve the problems before tourism is negatively impacted.
Tourism is one of the top four economic drivers in the state, bringing in $1.9 billion in taxes in 2019. That money offsets taxes families pay, and provides funds to bring big music and sports events to the area.
Nungesser says only prosecuting a fraction of the crimes and the growing number of people living on the street is hurting that industry.
"We've been doing it for years, and we got no response and we have sent photos. We have had meetings, but there's no results. There's no action. Nobody cares," said Cindy Brennan, owner of Mr. B’s Bistro about the people living on the French Quarter streets.
After airing the frustration of those who say prime gathering areas in New Orleans are becoming unsafe for locals and visitors, we got a call from Nungesser saying the same.
“We see the letters of people saying, ‘I'm never coming back. We were harassed leaving the restaurant. There were people laying naked in the street. They were using the bathroom in the street. My kids shouldn't be subject to this.’ And this is everywhere. We see it at the museums,” he said.
He says recently his office, working with the mayor's office, came up with proposed legislation to support the homeless, while at the same time make the Quarter safer.
“Much like they did in San Diego, the Gaslamp district where they separated from the city, managed by residents, and business owners with an appointment by the mayor and the city council to actually manage the Quarter.”
He says state and local money would focus on public safety in the city's tourist areas, with cameras, lighting, graffiti removal, garbage collection, street cleaning, overseen by the citizens group. At the same time, private business owners offered major funding for the homeless to get medical assessments and identify living quarters. It would also bring police numbers up to the 109 the area needs.
“We even offered to put up some money from the tourism office to put friendly officers, to help move the people that are disrupting the public along,” said Nungesser.
The proposal never made it for a vote, but Nungesser says he is still working with the mayor on a plan.
“The mayor's going to be unrolling something, I want to say beginning of July to address cleaning up our core,” said Melissa Newell, Press Secretary for Mayor Cantrell.
Nungesser says help is needed both for the homeless and for businesses relying on tourism. He says something drastic is needed now.
“Failure's not an option on this, if not we're going to lose the Quarter, and lose that place we have in tourism forever. It will take years to catch back if it keeps on this track,” said Nungesser.