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Rooftop holdouts say they want to stay put

As local officials vow to start forcing the city's remaining residents out, an eclectic bunch plans to stay on a parking lot atop an abandoned New Orleans supermarket.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
Published September 7, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - Nancy's sweeping again because another helicopter swooped by and destroyed her perfect tidiness. Marc is pacing, winking at the others and smiling that old-man smile.

Donald is having a cigarette in his truck. Toby and Rosezana are playing cards in their makeshift tent. Kevin is cranking the radio in his BMW. Queen Refugee, the adopted stray dog, is sleeping under a Ford Mustang.

Up on this roof at the corner of Broad and Bienville avenues, surrounded by foul, murky water, everyone acts happy. Or at the least, content.

As local officials vow to start forcing the city's remaining residents out, this eclectic bunch plans to stay on this parking lot atop an abandoned supermarket in the Mid-City neighborhood.

"We don't want for anything. We are fine right here," says Toby London, who lives with his 42-year-old fiancee, Rosezana Gould, under a makeshift tent between a Chevrolet and a Cadillac. He spent his 50th birthday here last week. "This doesn't bother us. We help each other. Everybody's together. I love that part."

It takes a boat and a ladder to reach them, but once there it's easier to understand why there are so many holdouts in New Orleans.

Everyone who fled to the roof has a reason for staying. Many loathe the thought of ending up at a shelter in another state for God knows how long. Many can see their houses from the rooftop. All believe the water will recede soon.

There's a traveling salesman, a horse trainer, a home renovator, a pipe worker. They keep the place clean, share military ready-made meals, water and companionship.

Helicopters leave their camp a windblown mess. Police aboard boats chastise them to get out. A dead body floats by now and again. They hear gunshots at night.

They hold on because there isn't much else to hold onto.

The police took London's 14-year-old nephew to his family in Shreveport. The boy didn't want to go but, London says, "It's for his own good."

Now it's just him and Rosezana. They lay together under the tent. Helicopters drone overhead. London slips his arm around her.

They were homeless before. Homeless now.

But they are home.

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