What's Happening Downtown?
In the last edition of Acadiana Works of Mercy, we shared how we are working with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff Office (LPSO) to identify new ways we can aid individuals who are re-entering the community after a period of institutionalization. The goal is to provide appropriate supports and resources to these individuals so that they can re-enter the community without becoming homeless. In just a few short months we’ve expanded our partnership with the LPSO and also formed additional partnerships to address homelessness in downtown Lafayette and the surrounding area with Downtown Development Authority, downtown property owners, Lafayette city police, and Our Lady of Lourdes Foundation. One outcome of these new partnerships is that Catholic Services of Acadiana has been able to establish a downtown outreach program, focusing on housing those experiencing homelessness.
Last year, after Mr. Davis Thibodeaux was shot while sleeping outside, many people experiencing homelessness began sleeping in public spaces that were more secure. They began seeking shelter in the downtown area because it heavily patrolled by police, and well lit, giving them a sense of security in already vulnerable circumstances. In a new effort to engage these individuals, Catholic Services of Acadiana has created a new Downtown Outreach Specialist position.
This specialist is engaging individuals experiencing homelessness, conducting an assessment to determine their specific needs, and developing an individualized plan to transition them back into housing.
In just the first few months, the Downtown Outreach Specialist has engaged, assessed, and started a re-housing plan with approximately 30 individuals, including several who were not seeking shelter or reaching out for assistance from any of homeless service providers in the area.
A New Low Barrier Overnight Facility
Shelter beds in Acadiana are typically full, leaving some individuals without a place to stay even when they are seeking it. Catholic Services of Acadiana and community partners are also addressing homelessness downtown through the creation of a low-barrier facility. A low barrier facility has minimal expectations of the individuals who request to sleep in the facility each night. Offering a place to sleep with as few barriers to entry as possible will allow more people to access the services available. The creation of a low barrier shelter also offers a solution for individuals who may not be eligible for existing shelters. It provides a safe alternative for those who do seek shelter in transitional shelters but find those beds already full. It is the goal of this low barrier facility to reduce the number of individuals who must sleep outside each night.
Acadiana is a compassionate community and many people in our community would like to help combat homelessness in our area. Catholic Services of Acadiana encourages the community to get involved at an organizational level, rather than attempting to help or provide money to individuals who are panhandling or otherwise seeking assistance from the general public. Giving money to people who are panhandling can discourage them from seeking the services they may truly need. If individuals experiencing homelessness do not seek assistance from organizations, they may not know of all the available resources and therefore will not be able to receive the full range of resources that could be available to them. Additionally, many people who are panhandling may not actually be in need and well-intentioned members of our community may find themselves victims of a scam-artist.
Everyone in Acadiana deserves to have a safe place to sleep at night, access to hygiene services, a warm meal, and health care. If you want to support individuals in finding the help they need, connect them to local homeless service organizations.
If you want to be more personally involved in helping people who are experiencing homelessness and hunger, find an organization of your choice, learn about the services they provide, ask them for a tour, become a volunteer, or give whatever you can, even if it is a small amount.
By encouraging people who are panhandling to seek the help they need, and supporting Acadiana’s social service organizations, you become a part of the solution. Visit www.catholicservice.org for a list of great ways to help without hurting.
Putting the Pieces Together
At Catholic Services of Acadiana’s mission we are motivated by the Gospel, to offer human services to preserve and enhance the lives of those experiencing hunger, poverty, and homelessness in Acadiana.” Our values are Faith, Hope and Love. Through this mission and these values, our goal is to end homelessness in Acadiana, by housing one person at a time, and helping them stay housed to become thriving members of society. Housing every person experiencing homelessness creates a more loving, hopeful community for all, whether homeless and impoverished or housed and enriched. But it takes a village.
The partnerships we have already created with individuals, businesses, agencies and colleagues gives us hope for a better future for all of Acadiana, and we look forward to increased community collaborations to serve our brothers and sisters in need. The new services we are offering and the new facility we are planning will help us expedite permanently housing people experiencing homeless.
Together, we are envisioning a better Acadiana where everyone has a safe place to sleep at night, enough food to eat, and the opportunity to develop their resources, to the best of their ability. We hope to provide more opportunities for the public to be informed about homelessness in Acadiana.
What can you do?
The community is encouraged to schedule a tour of our programs to learn more about how our services and programs are changing and enriching the lives of individuals and families in crisis. These tours also help community members learn about ways they can stay connected and be a part of our work. To schedule a tour call Sarah Clement at 337-235-4972 ext. 104 or email email@example.com. You can also keep up-to-date by visiting our website and reading our blog and signing up for our newsletter - www.catholicservice.org.