LAFAYETTE, La. — Catholic Charities of Acadiana wrote a letter to the Lafayette Consolidated Government, Lafayette City and Parish Council Members and other community stakeholders stating that homelessness in Acadiana is up 58% since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The letter comes after Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory announced on May 13 that his administration would be presenting an initiative to provide financial assistance from an $852,935 federal Community Development Block Grant for Coronavirus from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to the Lafayette City and Parish Councils for small businesses that were forced to close down during Gov. John Bel Edward's Stay At Home Order.
The Lafayette City and Parish Councils will hold an emergency joint meeting on an ordinance that will amend the FY 19/20 operating budget of LCG by increasing revenues for the amount of the grant funds on Tuesday.
Catholic Charities of Acadiana CEO Kimberly Boudreaux writes that in January 2020, there were 460 individuals experiencing homeless in the eight-civil parish region of Acadiana.
Since March 27, an additional 325 individuals have fallen into homelessness, she writes, which represents a 58% increase in homelessness over the last two months with an estimated 785 individuals across Acadiana.
Due to lack of available emergency shelter beds, 289 adults and 111 children experiencing homelessness have been temporarily placed in Lafayette hotels, writes Boudreaux. Numbers are expected to continue sharply rising as evictions and utility disconnections resume in the coming weeks.
Guillory pointed out on Monday that the state of Louisiana has begun funding an initiative to pay to house homeless individuals in hotels.
Guillory noted on Monday that the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness had 60 people that it provided services to before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he said that number is about 250. By comparison, he said there are 2,842 businesses that have been forced to close by the government in Lafayette Parish, which is more than 10 times that amount.
Catholic Charities states it has spent $630,000 in FY 19/20 to operate its emergency shelter programs in Acadiana.
The only two grants that it states have been available to support the operation of these shelters are through the HUD Emergency Solutions Grants and LCG External Agency Grant Funding.
This fiscal year, Catholic Charities states it was awarded $84,094 in HUD Emergency Solutions Grant funding for its homeless shelter operations and $10,000 in LCG External Agency Funding.
According to Catholic Charities, the Acadiana region was allocated $713,369 in HUD Emergency Solutions Grant as part of the CARES Act. The following grants were awarded to provide services throughout the eight-civil parish region:
- $73,000 in Street Outreach through Acadiana Outreach Center
- $458,103 in Homeless Prevention through St. Mary Community Action Agency, Faith House, Catholic Charities of Acadiana to provide rent and utility assistance with supportive services to ensure their housing stability. An estimated 300 households will be assisted in the region with these funds.
- $148,296 in Rapid Rehousing through Beacon Community Connections to move people from hotels back into housing with supportive services to ensure their housing stability. An estimated 50 households will be assisted with these funds.
Catholic Charities of Acadiana said it applied for HUD CDBG-CV funding in the amount of $300,000 for utility assistance, which would provide utility assistance to approximately 1,000 LUS customers.
According to a letter dated May 6 from Guillory, LCG received more than 30 applications from local nonprofits requesting an excess of $3 million in assistance. LCG wrote that the need far exceeded their available resources, but that it was making every effort to secure additional funding to meet the other unmet needs.
Guillory said on Monday that he considered giving the CDBG funds to local non-profit organizations to help with the homeless population. However, Guillory said these non-profits already receive federal, state and local funding; can write grants and can raise money in the form of private donations. They can also get funding from larger, very well funded non-profits like United Way.
Catholic Charities states this funding is essential to preventing additional households from falling into homelessness and furthering the housing crisis in our region.
But according to Guillory, his program would focus on businesses with nowhere else to turn including hair salons, barbers, tanning salons, musicians and massage therapists.
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