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Jun 23, 2014 10:07 PM by Kari Beal

Housing the Homeless: Catholic Services program takes homeless off the street

The Lafayette Catholic Service Center (LCSC), as part of the nationwide 100,000 Homes Campaign, has helped 871 homeless find permanent housing in the last two years.

The national effort aims to bring 100,000 people off the streets--and not just into shelters--but into homes and apartments they either rent or own. The Monsignor Sigur Service Center is the division of LCSC working on the campaign. The program, according to Sigur Center Director Autumn dela Houssaye, allows housing specialists to meet with the homeless, guiding them through budget planning and financial assistance to find a home.

"Research has shown that people are more successful in their lives-getting off substances and getting stable-if they are in their own home versus trying to get trying to get stable living in a shelter with 60 other people," dela Houssaye said.

According to the New York-based non-profit, Community Solutions, which started the campaign, the number of chronic homelessness has decreased from 109,812 to 92,593. LCSC has helped bring similar results to Acadiana. When the program started in 2012, Community Solutions reports there were 518 homeless in Acadiana, a number that now stands at 471 in the 2014 report.

Lafayette resident Otis Pace says he was homeless for a year and half, but that coming to LCSC a year ago was a life-changer for him.

"I had nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep....I would have to go from place to place," Pace said. "I was literally in the streets and sleeping on the concrete."

Pace said he used to work offshore for an oil company, but lost that job because of medical problems.

"My legs started going out and I started to have back problems," Pace explained. "Things started to escalate and then I became disabled.

Dela Houssaye emphasized that the program doesn't just help homeless find a permanent home, but the program calls for a check-up to make sure they're staying on track.

"They provide a follow-up for six months after the person has been housed. So making sure they are paying their rent and keeping their utilities on," Delahoussaye said.

Pace has lived in his new home for a month and said he's happy as can be.

"I'm very grateful," Pace said.

A strategic government advisory firm, Liana Downy and Associates estimates, if this campaign is successful at getting 100,000 chronically homeless off the streets, it could save taxpayers $1.3 billion annually.

"This is due to the fact that chronically homeless people make frequent and unnecessary use of emergency services like the emergency room, where a single night's stay often costs more than a full month's rent in permanent housing. Connecting these individuals to permanent housing with simple supportive services to help them remain housed dramatically reduces public costs," according to LCSC's press release.

The organization clarifies that a chronically homeless person is anyone dealing with a disabling medical condition who has been homeless for at least one year or more than four times in a three-year period.

"This group accounts for 12-15 percent of the homeless population, yet consumes more than 70 percent of all public dollars spent on homelessness through high emergency service usage," LCSC's press release reads.



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