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Homelessness in Acadiana: A crucial shelter program may run out of funds

Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 20:06:58-04

The experts say--- the situation is dire.

Right now, in an eight-parish part of Acadiana, there are 346 households --- people living in hotels—because they are homeless. And a FEMA program that has funded this “sheltering in hotels” program, is about to dry up.

“It’s truly a crisis, a crisis on a scale that we have not seen and with an impact that we have not seen before in this community,” says Leigh Rachal, executive director of the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, better known as ARCH.

This sheltering in hotels—officially called “the non-congregate sheltering program”-- is ramping down and about to run out of federal funds which means new clients will not be housed in these hotels. Plus, those who are already in the program may not be for much longer. These homeless individuals will have to leave their temporary shelters, which brings up the next question:

What will happen to them?

“If the funding were to end today, all of those individuals would be outside or in their car or literally unsheltered,” says a frustrated Rachal.

Let’s breakdown that homeless household number of 346:

That equates to 526 people include 100 children.

“We’ve never seen that in Lafayette,” says Rachal worriedly, “we’ve never seen unsheltered children in Lafayette, and I do not want to see us go down that path. But without resources to address it and address it quickly, that’s what we’re facing.”

The problem has been exacerbated by Covid-19 restrictions that have shut down traditional shelters, and the recent closure of the Salvation Army facility in Lafayette—which housed a number of men— made things even worse.

So—what’s the solution? How can any of us help, even in the short-term?

“If anybody has housing for rent at an affordable level please let us know,” says Rachal hopefully. “We’re looking at moving folks into housing as quickly as possible. Also, if you’d like to donate any furniture or items these people can use when they move in, that would be great; and of course, anytime you move into new housing, there are related expenses, so financial donations would be appreciated as well.”

Leigh Rachal also says contacting legislators, congressmen or senators, especially as they discuss the economic stimulus in Washington, D.C. could help; plus, the state of Louisiana has received some Covid-19 money, some of which she hopes is directed toward housing.

***Contact ARCH at 337-967-0995 or via email at arch@archacadiana.org.

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