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Homelessness expected to increase due to Delta variant

“We’re working with partner agencies in the city for testing and vaccines. We encourage all our clients to get their shots, but we can’t force anyone to do so.”

NEW ORLEANS — As local health officials warn about the spread of the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, there’s growing concern about the variant and how it may impact the housing situation in the metro area. In roughly two weeks, the Federal ban on evictions is set to expire. 

One local shelter anticipates more people could be pushed into homelessness at a time when cases of the Delta variant are rising. Through the help of Ozanam Inn on Camp Street, Marcus Russell is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s timely considering the increasing cases of the Delta variant.

“I feel good. I’m glad I got it taken care of and that was the right thing to do,” said Marcus Russell.

Marcus Russell said he’s been homeless for 3 years. Finding steady housing and work during the pandemic hasn’t been easy he told me. He recently turned to Ozanam Inn for a safe place to stay. Russell is now working with other men in the same situation.

“That’s my goal is to help them. I stay with them, pray with them and try to get them help and get them on a program to prevent them from being homeless again,” said Russell.

Well before COVID, the shelter was full. The CEO said the pandemic is pushing even more people their way. When the federal ban on evictions is set to expire at the end of this month, he believes some of those tenants will eventually end up on the street.

“We’re preparing just like we do for hurricanes. We’re preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, but we anticipate a large number of evictions. We anticipate the homeless population to grow considerably,” said Clarence Adams, CEO at Ozanam Inn.

The contagious nature of the Delta variant is complicating matters for Adams. He and his staff are vaccinated, but the inn doesn’t require proof of vaccination from anyone looking for a bed or a hot meal. That poses a risk to anyone at the shelter who is unvaccinated. Their best defenses are testing and getting more of the homeless vaccinated.

“We’re working with partner agencies in the city for testing and vaccines. We encourage all our clients to get their shots, but we can’t force anyone to do so,” said Adams.

Due to capacity limits, the inn has turn people away on a nightly basis. 

Starting in October, the staff will move into a larger facility on Poydras Street. It’ll be able to provide more than 150 beds. The increased capacity will also make it possible for Ozanam Inn to finally be able to house women for the first time in its history. Even with that extra space, Adams expects to fill up quickly.

“It’s never-ending. We’re seeing people every day. People who have never been homeless before,” said Adams.

We’ve heard so much about COVID affecting the most vulnerable people. At Ozanam Inn, there are daily reminders of that.

The federal moratorium on evictions has been extended several times since last year. The CDC recently posted on its website that the latest extension is intended to be the final one. 

The Ozanam Inn is looking for donations to expand its services and to finish the renovation at its new location. Click here to help.