Southwest Louisiana is filled with good Samaritans who long to create a better future for the next generation of residents. Student groups, tutors, recreational sports, shelters, feeding programs, religious organizations — it’s fairly easy to get involved.

But who holds the true power to enacting lasting change?

Over the last six months, Entergy’s Power to Care volunteer group, the United Way of Southwest Louisiana and the Calcasieu Parish Human Services Department have hosted events to simulate the woes that Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, or ALICE, residents live with as they try to juggle meager wages and necessary bills. Most recently, the parish hosted a homeless simulation to teach residents what it’s like to navigate Lake Charles without identification, income or shelter.

The experiences were astounding, even painful at times. Invited guests scrambled throughout tables representing the limited local resources available for those in need, often feeling frustrated, hopeless and angry.

The experiences were simulated, but the emotions were real.

These “actors” represent the more than 40 percent of residents considered ALICE and the hundreds who sleep on the streets, in tent encampments or in the few shelters available. For them, it’s not an act. It’s real life.

Yet, the actors present at the these simulations don’t hold the keys to unlocking shelter and upward mobility for thousands of Southwest Louisiana residents. They are, for the most part, compassionate volunteers who will go home with a new understanding of the social crisis but no actual authority to make change.

Where are the elected officials when these events are held? Where are the police jurors, school board members, mayors and legislators who, through the power of their signature, can create policies to launch progress and find eventual resolutions to these social injustices?

We must do better. We must ardently invite those with power to the table and hold those absent accountable.

More from this section

In times of emergency, rumors spread like wildfire creating confusion and misinformation. In the current coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, in cooperation with the White House, has set up a special web site to alert the public to myths currently being spread.

Public school systems certainly faced a difficult choice when they discontinued the feeding sites that serviced thousands of school-age children across Southwest Louisiana in order to adhere more strictly to social distancing orders. The risk was high, and staff needed to be considered, inde…

Louisiana is one of 13 states that have received Medicaid waiver requests from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that are designed to speed up responses to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Seema Verma, CMS administrator, said the waivers were approved with…

Louisiana is among the top three states for nursing homes reporting confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases. A news report in The Advocate said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) named Louisiana, Georgia and New York as the three states based on data from the Centers for Disease…

Lafayette, our sister city to the east, is once again experiencing an oil price crisis. Oil and gas companies became optimistic after the 2014 crisis when oil prices rose, but the coronavirus pandemic had oil prices Wednesday trading below $21 per barrel.

Food industry officials are advising consumers to stop panic shopping and hoarding during the coronavirus crisis, which is causing disruptions in the supply chains serving neighborhood grocery stores.