LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A new initiative aims to combat homelessness in Lake Charles with innovative ideas and new partnerships.
“At that moment I thought ‘okay, this is way more than I ever imagined," Denise Durel, president and CEO of the United Way of Southwest Louisiana, said.
One morning Durel said she got a call about a man sleeping in front of their office.
“The people that were here to here to clean the street and the sidewalk were making noise, blowing leaves and he wasn’t moving so we actually called 911. As the ambulance and the police came, they kept stopping down Ryan Street because there were all these people sleeping on benches and office buildings," Durel said.
After seeing the problem literally at United Way’s doorstep, she decided to start The Path Home initiative, which works to expand shelter capacity in Lake Charles.
“Right now we only have one women’s homeless shelter here and we have three men’s shelters here. So the first step was to see how we can work with those organizations and see if we can build capacity. We actually funded $15,000 to the Salvation Army and they’re not going to be able to, with that money, double their capacity," Durel said.
Another goal is to create housing dedicated to families — something she said doesn’t exist in our five parish region.
“The nearest family shelter is in Crowley, and if you want to go a little further than that, you have to go all the way to Houston, if you’re a family," Durel said.
Durel said what better way to get a family back on their feet than giving them the right conditions to do so.
“What we’re going to do first to start off, we’re going to start with three homes. Three single dwelling homes. Each just a little over 1,000 square feet a home, just really small, three bedroom two bath," Durel said.
By allowing them to have a family setting — Durel said she’s hopeful this will help families gain independence.
“We would house them anywhere from 6 to 8 months depending on each individual situation. But, everyone in the family would receive the support they need, so, at the end of it they can go out and find housing and sustain themselves," Durel said.
Durel said building these homes is pending partnership with certain entities. The Lake Charles City Council will take final action on whether to partner with United Way on this initiative at their meeting September 18.