Homeless problem subject of forum

A panel of local officials heard from several residents Tuesday about ways to solve the growing homeless problem in Calcasieu Parish and listed ideas to address short-term needs.

The forum, hosted by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s Human Services Department, showed the inaccuracies of Point in Time, an annual survey where officials count the homeless population. Last year’s survey showed roughly 50 homeless people in Lake Charles, but several residents said the number was closer to 500 people.

"That’s what I see, too, every day in Lake Charles," said Gordon Levine, Continuum of Care manager for the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

Levine urged those who are homeless to take part in the survey, set for Jan. 28, to get a more accurate count and possibly bring more financial aid to the area over the long term.

"Those numbers are the story that you can tell effectively to the people who are involved in deciding how much money comes here," he said.

Louisiana’s homeless population has dropped every year that the survey has been conducted, but Levine spoke of the difficulty in getting an accurate count. Rising housing costs in the area have led to more people being priced out of the market and experiencing homelessness for the first time.

While officials spoke about the steps in getting long-term assistance, others called for quicker action. Kelli Stawecki, director of the homeless outreach program at Water’s Edge church, said they were feeding 15 people when the program started seven years ago. Today, they are feeding and providing supplies for more than 200 people.

"It’s so out of control right now that if we don’t do something, we’re going to see some huge crisis in this town," she said. "We cannot possibly keep up with what we’re doing. Something has to give."

Stawecki said the program has seen more families that are homeless, but there are no local shelters for families. She said homeless shelters need to be less restrictive so people who don’t qualify aren’t turned away.

"I don’t understand why we can’t have a warming center … to get them out of the cold for the night," Stawecki said. "We can make differences starting with the small things."

District 9 Police Juror Kevin Guidry stressed the need for residents to take part in the Point in Time survey to get an accurate count of the parish’s homeless population.

"This is a very serious situation," he said.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Cmdr. James McGee said the forum was a chance to hear public concerns and give deputies direction to help those struggling with homelessness.

Levine said he is working with other state officials to simplify the Point in Time survey, calling the current one too long and complicated.

Several residents offered short-term suggestions to help those suffering from homelessness, including repurposing warehouses and abandoned buildings as shelters. Levine said residents should look to local outlets for help in creating emergency shelters, rather than federal funding.

Others suggested posting flyers advertising the Point in Time survey, and explaining why it is important. Residents also spoke about updating the process to recruit landlords to control the cost of rental properties and making it easier for the homeless to get a picture ID.

Braylon Harris, director of the Impact Agency, said local officials saw the homeless problem long before it arrived, but didn’t take the steps to stop it. He said the city doesn’t lack facilities or money, but rather the boldness of political leaders to take action.””<p><span>Local residents and officials gather Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 for the Housing and Homeless Crisis Forum, hosted by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s </span><span>Human Services Department.</span></p>John GuidrozCalcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter
https://www.americanpress.com/content/tncms/avatars/7/a3/7a4/7a37a4a0-3a63-11e7-927b-9ba95362f7b9.0fc7b7e12d3b2e55cd1cef3a44ac29dd.png

SportsPlus

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column:Constitution plan resurrected

high-school Sports

New concession stand added to plans for football stadium

life

Community rallies to support 3-year-old with brain tumor

Business

Jeff Davis School Board agrees to ITEP for solar facility project

Local News

Police Jury considers increases to grass ordinance fees

Local News

Qualifying ends, ballots set for November election

Local News

American Press winner of eight Louisiana Press Association awards

Local News

Allen Parish flood maps available for review

Local News

Ten Commandments won’t go in Louisiana classrooms until at least November as lawsuit plays out

Local News

Airlines, businesses hit by global technology disruption

McNeese Sports

Long road to McNeese

Business

Appeals court sends Commonwealth LNG decision back to FERC

Crime

Trooper arrested following off-duty DWI crash

Crime

Police: Attempted rapist broke into woman’s apartment through bathroom window

Local News

Daily showers, thunderstorms expected over next week

Crime

BREAKING: Police investigating early morning homicide

Local News

Council defers vote on potential Ernest and W. Claude development

life

Somber moment in community as Sacred Heart High School Gym demolished

Local News

Comedian Bob Newhart, deadpan master of sitcoms and telephone monologues, dies at 94

Local News

Trump has given no official info about his medical care for days since an assassination attempt

Local News

Lake Charles Police Department to host free National Night Out community event

life

Cajun Music and Food Festival introduces inaugural accordion contest

Crime

7/18: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

Business

BREAKING: Smoke from Calcasieu Refinery blamed on flare