Those of you who were following our Occupy New Orleans coverage this month may remember Norman Oaks.
Oaks, a homeless Vietnam era Navy veteran, lived in Duncan Plaza during most of the two-month-long Occupy encampment/protest and was among its most active participants. On Dec. 5, when the New Orleans Police Department started busing the homeless from Duncan Plaza to Exodus House, Oaks went along hoping to be placed in a shelter.
Unfortunately, Exodus could only offer him communal housing. Oaks suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hepatitis C, he's extremely vulnerable to infection, not to mention contagious, so that didn't work. When we last spoke, as Occupy New Orleans was facing its second and final eviction from the park, he didn't know where he was going to go.
Good news: I ran into Oaks tonight, and his situation has improved a bit. He'll soon be receiving medical benefits from the U.S. Veteran's Administration. (He was honorably discharged just a few days before he would have qualified for active duty benefits. He's been fighting that for quite a while.) Unity GNO is working to place him into private permanent housing. And for the time being, members of the Occupy New Orleans legal team, including Alison McCrary, have been paying for him to stay in a motel.
Bad news: Unity doesn't expect to get Oaks placed until late January or early February. Meanwhile, the legal team is quickly (as in the next few days) running out of funds for the motel.
Which is why legal team photographer Rene Merino has taken to Facebook seeking donations, via the event page A Plea For Assistance to Keep a Veteran Out of the Cold This Holiday Season.