Three to six thousand New Orleans residents are living as squatters, a house-by-house survey of the crescent city has revealed. The Times-Picayune reports.
UNITY, a local non-profit, surveyed 55,000 derelict buildings on 500 blocks chosen at random throughout the city. Among its interesting findings, the proportion of squatters in New Orleans who are elderly is four times the national average for homeless people--11.3 percent in NOLA vs. 2.8 percent throughout the US. The article suggests that these older squatters stay out of the city's shelter system because they want to "avoid the hubbub of traditional homeless shelters, preferring to hole up in vacant homes in familiar areas."
This is totally understandable. How sad, then, that the solution UNITY proposes amounts to more of what the squatters fear: "increased funding for case workers, homeless shelters and mental health services, as well as more assistance for moderate and low-income homeowners still trying to repair their houses."
Why not a program that works with the squatters to empower them to join together to bring the houses where they are currently encamped up to code? The fact that one in ten of these squatters is over 62 doesn't mean these people don't have skills to help the city rebuild.