Land Use

Months-long blight fight pushes Mid-City man into ranks of New Orleans' homeless

Lane Hughes stood his ground last June as city deferred decision on whether to demolish his rundown home. (photo: Karen Gadbois)

By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

With its tangled title, backed-up taxes, and an ambience that hovers somewhere between junkyard and barnyard, it’s no showplace. But for Lane Hughes, the waterless wreck of a house has been all that stands between him and the streets or a shelter.

In proceedings last June on whether to take down the Mid-City “eyesore”, Neighborhood Conservation District Committee members had been a tad startled to realize that the man taking the microphone to oppose demolition of the “abandoned” structure was, in fact, its occupant.

There’s a philosophical question at the heart of the matter. In this particular skirmish, is the city’s war on blight at cross-purposes with efforts to combat homelessness?

This week, after months of temporizing and red tape, the city bureaucracy ground into gear and spat out what Hughes has long fought: a demolition order.

The property, in the 1900 block of St. Louis Street across from the Lafitte Greenway, has been Hughes’ home since he moved to New Orleans after Katrina to help out his family. His Uncle Pike, a housebound Vietnam vet had inherited the place from Hughes’ grandmother, Octavia – in whose name the property remains. Why? Because, when Uncle Pike died and Hughes became the sole occupant, the assessor required payment of $8,500 in fines and back taxes before he would rework the title. For Hughes, who scrapes by collecting soda cans for sale to a nearby scrap metal dealer, that sum was, to say the least, a stretch.

Hughes’ may be the only house in the area with chickens pecking in the dooryard and a magpie’s accumulation of junk scattered all over the place, but then this stretch of St. Louis Street is never confused with Audubon Place. Other properties have been put to light-industrial use – cinderblock warehouses; a delivery truck garage – as zoning allows.

Hughes, now in his mid-40s,  sees himself as an artist and the debris as yard art. His contention that friends of the Lafitte Greenway are his foes in the demolition fight have been denied.

He did not turn up for this week’s fateful meeting of the Neighborhood Conservation Committee. Nor did he answer a reporter’s knock at his gate the next day. But an early morning visit to the property showed signs of recent gardening, a fresh profusion of plastic flowers and some roof work — evidence that he still lives there.

The NCDC’s 6-2 vote appears to doom the property. What happens to its occupant remains uncertain.

Informed that demolition appeared imminent, Martha Kegel, of Unity for the Homeless, said she would “reach out the Veterans Administration“ to see what services they might be able to provide Hughes.

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  • Nola Anarcha

    further evidence of how the non-profit industrial complex (to quote INCITE!) ameliorates the worst excesses of this system, while allowing it to continue to de-base humanity and lower the bar for the worst examples of institutionalized violence.

  • Nola Anarcha

    Charity is the means by which
    the bourgeois, having already
    snatched up almost everything else
    for themselves, attempt to corner
    the market on benevolence.

    Individual charitable acts can
    be criticized for being aimed more
    at assuaging guilty consciences than
    actually solving problems, or for distracting
    attention from the roots of
    those problems—but charity itself,
    even at its most apparently effective
    and well-intentioned, is essentially
    a demonstration of power in
    a system based on competition and
    humiliation. In every act of charity,
    the subtext is that those who offer
    the handouts have their act together
    to such an extent that they not only
    can provide for themselves—the ultimate
    measure of worth in our individualistic
    capitalist society—but
    also have enough left over to share
    with others, while those on the receiving
    end cannot even take care of
    their own needs. This is why such
    assistance is often not received with
    the groveling gratitude benefactors
    expect: in contrast to other gift-giving,
    charity glorifies the one who
    offers it, and humiliates the recipient.
    At bottom, the benefactor is not
    there to assist the one in need; the
    one in need is there to confirm the
    status of the benefactor. The philanthropist
    gives, but on his terms, thus
    emphasizing his property rights and
    position of privilege: charity is the
    opposite of sharing.

    Everyone knows that, as a rule,
    the less people have, the more they
    are willing to share; this says a lot
    about the effects of wealth on human
    beings. In place of charity, we would
    do well to develop ways of assisting
    one another in which we share not
    only resources but also, more importantly,
    control over them.


  • Nola Anarcha

    well hopefully SOMEONE from occupy or the radical community can get something together, even if it’s just like 2 tents and a press release that gets news coverage and makes it clear to the city that there will be a fight over the demolition and attempts to physically impede it, that might be enough. step up people!!!!!!!!

  • Ed Ward MD

    Here’s a little ‘light’ reading of reality…. Mind you after hundreds of Millions of Funding was stolen from those that were supposed to be helped….

    In Case You Missed the NOLA BBQ… 8 Homeless Kids… DEAD, 40,000 Homeless in NOLA… About the same number of Vacant properties, 1/3 of which are owned by the city of NOLA.

    BTW, in case you missed it…

    Bill Moyers: The Secret Government – The Constitution in Crisis


    German High Court Outlaws Electronic Voting
    Wednesday, 21 October 2009, 9:45 am

    Hacking Democracy – 90 minutes of proof the vote is fixed on multiple levels.

    City of New Orleans, LA & 36 Other State’s Elections Fixed

    A couple more?

    Concise Briefing: Past/Present Global Tyranny – Basic Proof, ID, and Remedy = Proven 9-11 Nukes + Included Links

    Proven 9-11 Nukes = US Government Involvement

    ’9-11 Fake Video’ Stars – The JSTAR Clones
    Why Covert Ops Must Have ‘Fake’ Video

    Dr. Ed Ward, MD – DEWD

    Ed Ward MD’s Weblog of Tyranny

  • Ed Ward MD

    Thank you Karen Gadbois for your article and posting my comments. You go where many dare not including supposed joke ‘investigative reporters’ of main stream media = merely accessories to government abuse.

    Ed Ward, MD