The Encampment Cleanup Process

The New Orleans Health Department (NOHD), along with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the Department of Sanitation, conduct weekly encampment cleanups. Cleanups help to reduce the spread of disease and protect the health of people experiencing homelessness. They provide the opportunity for homeless service providers to conduct surveys and other important data collection, and connect them to services. They also allow NOHD to connect with vulnerable populations, identify developing public health needs, notify people of important events such as emergency weather plans, and collect data. Below is a step-by-step explanation of the cleanup procedure:

  1. 3-1-1 Response: The New Orleans Health Department receives and reviews 3-1-1 requests to inspect places where residents may find public health hazards. Please note that 3-1-1 is a non-emergency service that should only be used to address public health hazards on public property. It is not used to remove homeless individuals or to address issues on private property.
  2. Inspections: NOHD staff conduct inspections throughout the week to assess whether the places of concern should be added to future cleanups. They look for public health hazards such as used needles, bugs, rodents, and animal and human feces. This inspection will determine whether the site should be included in a cleanup. They will only ask people to leave a site if it is too dangerous for them to stay. A location will be added to the cleanup list if it’s public property and a public health hazard has been found.
  3. Cleanup Planning and Preparation: NOHD coordinates with the Sanitation Team, NOPD, and homeless service providers at least a week before a cleanup. In addition, the department sends out an outreach team to notify encampment residents a week before the cleanup and again the day before the cleanup. The Health Department is legally required to notify encampment residents about cleanups at least 24 hours in advance with written notice. Staff members also ask that residents temporarily move their belongings on the morning of the cleanup to clear the space. This helps prevent trash buildup and allows easier access for the sanitation team to pressure wash. If a location is added to the cleanup list, it does not mean that it will be cleaned immediately. Locations take priority based on those that pose the most severe public health risks.
  4. The day of the cleanup: At the direction of NOHD, the sanitation team only removes trash, debris, and items that are a public health hazard. During cleanups, homeless service providers reach out to residents and connect them to resources. Health Department staff distribute items such as hygiene kits, water, blankets, and other necessities. The sanitation team pressure washes concrete surfaces.

Several different homeless service providers have attended cleanups to help people experiencing homelessness. They include UNITY, Metropolitan, Odyssey house, and Healthcare for the Homeless.