Pope Francis speaks frequently about his concern for the marginalized and encourages us to give more of our attention to their needs. In November 2014, the media once again was buzzing about his newest idea - adding showers to the restrooms in St. Peter’s Square, a suggestion from a homeless man who said that finding food was not as difficult as finding a place to get clean. Many people have rallied around his initiative and called for similar ideas to be implemented in their communities. Catholic Services of Acadiana responded to a similar need in Acadiana three years ago.
In 2012 CSA staff members began finding bars of soap and wash cloths next to a water spout behind a dumpster on our campus. They witnessed many people suffering from various health conditions because they did not have the opportunity to practice hygiene habits. Since opening in March 2012, Stella Maris Center has offered people experiencing homelessness access to showers, restrooms, and laundry. Over 8,886 showers and 1,111 loads of laundry have been washed. In addition to these basic services, our staff is able to engage individuals, assisting them in finding solutions and community resources to end their experience of homelessness. In that time, we have connected 476 individuals to housing solutions that provide affordable, permanent housing options.
Named after Our Lady Star of the Sea, the Center is a safe harbor from the storms of the world where our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness can find restoration. “Stella Maris Center is a place where dignity can be restored. Not only can people clean themselves and receive necessary clothing and hygiene items, but we also make certain that they are greeted with kindness and respect and feel like a part of a community. We want them to take care of the essentials, but more importantly, we want them to remember their dignity,” says Haley Bates, a CSA Case Manager at Stella Maris Center.
It is encouraging to see Pope Francis respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Rome. His actions are a reminder that we all have a responsibility to care for the needs of the suffering. We are grateful for his leadership and happy to participate in this work of mercy with him. CSA Staff member, Lori Boudreaux summarizes the beauty of Stella Maris Center, “the Center is important because it means a fresh start every day, a chance to wash off the previous day and start clean with the next. It is in opportunity to exemplify our Christian love.”
The prayer to the right hangs on the wall of Stella Maris Center, as an invitation to all to join us in praying for peace and guidance for all we serve. If you are interested in donating supplies to Stella Maris Center please call 337-235-4972 ext. 193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.