Homelessness has nearly doubled in Acadiana since the start of the pandemic in March and Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness and Housing (ARCH) is working harder than ever to find places for people to stay.
In the winter months, especially, the need for shelter grows every year because people need protection from the cold.
"Usually the congregate shelters are able to accommodate the increase in people seeking shelter on cold nights, however because of COVID-19 this year we are unable to utilize those congregate shelters at full capacity," says Leigh Rachal, the Executive Director for ARCH. "This means the number of people facing homelessness has gone up while the number of beds available has been drastically reduced."
For those 30 or 40 degree nights, hotels are the best option, but they're also the more expensive option.
"We've made arrangements with hotels for the best rates possible but it still averages about 25 per person per night, and over the holidays we were sheltering about 300 people and you can do the math that gets very expensive very quickly," says Rachal.
The money to supply the rooms is coming completely from private donors. We spoke with one man who volunteers frequently for ARCH about why he feels it's so important to give to the cause.
"I had a good childhood, I had a lot of support. I feel that I was very privileged and I have met people who didn't have that same background," says Scott Ferguson.
Especially right now, there are children growing up homeless whose parents never expected that to be the case.
"Family homelessness numbers have skyrocketed. We're seeing a huge increase in families with children who are sleeping in their cars or unsheltered locations. That's something Acadiana has never experienced before. We've generally been able to offer shelter immediately when a family became homeless and this year we simply do not have enough shelter space for that," says Rachal.
It costs roughly $25 a night to put someone up in a hotel.
To give to this rapidly depleting fund, visit bit.ly/freezefund to make a donation.
Those interested in giving by check can send mail to: ARCH, PO Box 3936, Lafayette, LA 70502.