LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC)
Lillie Chambers works as the coordinator for the SWLA Continuum of Care and says the Department of Housing and Urban Development has come out with a new definition for what it means to be homeless.
"It has to do with individuals who are not in a secure, safe, adequate environment" said Chambers. "Those people are usually considered homeless".
A new age definition that Chambers says contributes to the invisibility of the homeless population right here in southwest Louisiana.
"In a smaller place like this area, they blend in" Chambers said. "They have backpacks and they are dressed, they have places they go to take baths here but still affordable housing is the issue".
Such was the case with Roger Richard after loosing his job over a decade ago.
"I've been homeless for 12 years and I had to adjust to it and I had to know how to handle myself" said Richard.
"I got a coffee table, I got chairs, nice chairs... I got pots and pans" Richard says describing his home in the trees.
Living in the woods with no direct access to the world unless he takes it, Richard falls into a category of homeless people that Chambers says make it harder to help.
"They are looking for someone that is just sitting in front of the doorway in the daytime. No, this person probably has some part time job that they go work but they still don't have enough money to cover all the expenses that being in a house or apartment will cover" Chambers said.
Understanding the evolving meaning of what it is to be homeless, Pearl Cole serves as the Executive Director for Abraham's Tent in Lake Charles.
"It was set up to make sure that no one went hungry in Lake Charles" said Cole. "That's been the idea from the very beginning and will continue to be our idea... no questions asked. You walk in and you're fed" Cole said.
With a new working definition to the issue, Cole hopes the city will begin to understand it's severity and take steps to solve it.
"I have to say our city is awesome... so therefore I believe that once they realize that homelessness is a problem also, I think it will be taken care of" she said.