Monday, December 5, 2011

Mini-profiles: Norman Oaks and Elbert Knight, homeless campers from #OccupyNOLA

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 2:20 PM

I spoke to a few of the 30-plus homeless people who were transferred from the Occupy New Orleans encampment at Duncan Plaza. Here, briefly, are two of their stories.


Norman Oaks

Norman_Oaks.jpg

Norman Oaks says he's been living at Duncan Plaza since mid-October. He's come to Exodus House today "basically for a shelter." Whether or not he gets one remains to be seen. For now, Exodus House intake specialist Michelle Ussin has other, more immediate priorities.

LSU Health Care Services has just faxed Oaks' medical file to Exodus House, and Ussin is furious. LSU released Oaks in early August, and told him that he'd have another appointment in four weeks. That never happened, even though, she says, the 55-year-old Oaks is in desperate need of immediate medical attention.

"Four months later, I'm sitting on the phone. They're sending me to 10 different people." Ussin says, waiting on hold with the hospital. "Oh. They just reminded me that my call is still important to them."

What she's just found out is that Oaks has is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hepatitis C, liver dysfunction and gout, to name some.

"The COPD and the hepatitis, those are the ones that'll kill me," Oaks says. "I've got a couple other small ones."

After a long time on the phone, Ussin manages to get Oaks a dental appointment — in April. The hospital advises him to go to the emergency room for his more serious conditions.

"I understand we've got a homeless situation, but he's out on the street, contagious," Ussin says. "He's supposed to just die under a bridge?"

(Elbert Knight after the jump)

Elbert Knight

Elbert_Knight.jpg

"I've been there since things started," says Elbert Knight. "I'd been under the overpass. I wasn't there when they kicked them out, though."

Knight says he's come to Exodus House this morning to "get something to get off the street, to get out of Duncan Plaza."

"It don't make no sense to get locked up," Knight says.

Knight was in the first group that was transported to Exodus House from the Occupy New Orleans camp. He was waiting in line at the door as the center began to let people in. He, like most everyone here, is looking for some type of housing — either shelter or permanent — in New Orleans. But, by 11 a.m., it's starting to look like that might not happen.

"They said they might get me some traveler's aid to send me back home," he says. Home is Missouri. A number of other people waiting here, specifically those with family elsewhere, have been given the same offer. Some say they don't want to take it, but Knight seems to be (reluctantly) considering it.

"It'll cost them less to put people on a bus, I guess," Knight says.

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