LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -
Is our economic boom in Lake Charles causing more people to live on the streets?
Recent reports shows the number of homeless people in the city is dropping. However, some believe the homeless population is growing. To the average person, it does seem that way but city officials disagree.
While 2017 saw a small rise in homelessness across the state, the Department of Housing and Urban Development records show a more than 70% decrease since 2010.
Tarek Polite, Director of Human Services at the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, says there are currently 78 un-sheltered individuals in the city. That’s down from 125 people last year.
Polite says dozens of homeless residents have been pushed into central parts of the city due to the recent growth, making them more visible.
“We do realize that a lot of our citizens—they’re seeing an increased number of individuals that may be standing at roadsides with signs or what have you, but the overall population of homeless individuals in Calcasieu parish has actually stayed the same or declined over the last couple of years,” said Polite.
Polite actually says Lake Charles saw a jump in homelessness in 2017 with flooding in other parts of the state.
Below are the homeless numbers for the annual point-in time for 2017 and 2018 according to the CPPJ Human Services Department.
Although the numbers that Polite references are what’s reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and serve as public record, many feel those numbers aren’t an adequate representation of the homeless here in Calcasieu parish.
Those who work day in and day out with the homeless, like the outreach program at Waters Edge, feel there’s definitely a cause for concern.
The church offers a free food pantry every other Thursday. Those who serve say they typically run out of food due to the increased amount of homeless.
Waters Edge church in Lake Charles also offers a homeless outreach program. It’s one way of giving people like D’andre and Jason, members of Waters Edge an outlet for support.
“I wasn’t worried about sleeping on the street, I knew I could survive some way. I was more so worried about how I would eat,” said Jason.
“All of us don’t have the resources, so we do need communities to step out on faith and say we should give them a shot,” said D’andre.
Kelli Stawecki, who serves as the outreach director at Waters Edge, believes that through outreach she’s found her life’s calling.
“They’ve done more for me than I’ve probably done for them,” said Stawecki.
She and her team of volunteers deliver home-cooked meals to the homeless each Thursday. For those volunteers, it’s a service of love.
“She comes out every Thursday afternoon to the woods and brings plates. I don’t know why she does it. She’s hardheaded,” said Bobby, jokingly (one of the homeless that Waters Edge delivers to).
“She let me speak to her, she let me talk and she let me opened my heart. And not only did she let me open up my heart to her, the church opened up their heart to me in return," said Jason
Many agree that it takes a collaborative effort from the community to help get these individuals back on their feet.
As more development continues to take place around the Lake Area, Polite says you may see more homeless people than before. “I think that we’ve made some progress and certainly in the area of at risk individuals becoming homeless. The key is that when someone finds themselves in that type of situation they reach out immediately,” he says.
Below are a list of of local shelters and outreach programs that you can volunteer time or donate to:
Waters Edge Church Food Pantry- (337) 304-4523
2760 Power Center Pkwy, Lake Charles, LA 70607
Food pantry fall dates:
-Sept. 6, 20,
-Oct. 4, 18,
-Nov. 1, 15, 29
-Dec. 13 & 20
You can join them on Thursdays at 10:30
Abraham’s Tent- (337) 721-7211
2424 Fruge St, Lake Charles, LA 70601
The Beacon Center- Homeless Hygiene Center
- P.O. Box 1389 Lake Charles, La 70602
- 337.930.2633 - Office
Lake Charles, LA
Lake Charles, LA
Salvation Army Church
Lake Charles, LA