Changing Numbers: SWLA Homeless Population

May 8, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

In Southwest Louisiana, there are close to 9,000 people that meet the definition of "homeless."  It's a number that the SWLA Homeless Coalition is working to change, and thanks to some recent good news, the homeless population in the area should soon be on the decline.

With half of the housing units for the homeless still heavily damaged by Hurricane Rita, the staff at the SWLA Homeless Coalition made a plea for financial help to the Louisiana Department of Social Services, and they just found out that help is finally on the way.

"No, I'm sorry, we do not have any available units at this time," says Coalition Executive Director, Linda Banks as she speaks on the phone in her office.  This is a conversation that she has had countless times since Hurricane Rita left many residents without a place to call home.

But, with six of the 13 available housing units through the Homeless Coalition in unlivable conditions - she is forced to turn people away in desperate need of shelter.  "There are calls that we receive constantly...daily...and you can hear the desperation in their voices," says Banks.

One of the units that weathered the storm is home to single mother, Linda Jones, that turned to the Coalition when she had nowhere to go with her three children.  "I didn't have a place to stay at the time," says Jones, "and I came looking for a place and they let me come in."

Few people have been as fortunate as Jones to find housing.  In an effort to meet the needs of the homeless population, the staff at the Homeless Coalition wrote a financial proposal to the state, and just found out the Department of Social Services is answering back with $400,000 for the repairs needed to bring the storm-damaged shelters back to code.

"With the grace of God and this grant," says Banks, "we are able to do what we have been called to do all these years."

A mission that will change the lives of more people - just like Linda Jones - who is about to move out of this housing and purchase her first home.  "As a single mother," says Jones, "it means a lot, you know, showing the kids that they can do the same thing that I'm about to do."

For more information on the SWLA Homeless Coalition and their plans to repair the local units with this grant, you can contact 433-6282.