Homeless dilemma cause for concern

Dist . C councilman calls attention to growing problem in Lake Charles

By Gena Latrell
glatrell@americanpress .com

<div class="Content"><p class="indent">There are no current statistics on Lake Charles’ homeless population, but residents in one district are concerned that it is growing.</p><p class="indent">During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, District C Councilman Rodney Geyen said several residents — mainly in the Greinwich Village and Greenwich Terrace neighborhoods — have called him about an influx of homeless people. He said some homeless people are asking for money, robbing residents and living beneath the Interstate 210 overpass.</p><p class="indent">“We don’t want to jeopardize these people who need a home, but some of them are walking through the neighborhoods and snatching purses,” Geyen said. “Just when people are trying to take groceries out of their cars, all of a sudden, their purses are snatched.”</p><p class="indent">Geyen said officials can work together on a solution. But Lake Charles Police Deputy Chief Shawn Caldwell said there isn’t “an easy answer.”</p><p class="indent">“We can absolutely take a more active approach with enforcement,” Caldwell said. “We can issue citations and arrest them, but after we take that police action, it’s up to the court system.”</p><p class="indent">Kristin Brooks, with the Lake Charles/Southwestern Louisiana Continuum of Care, said “the plight of homelessness is complicated,” and it requires help from the public.</p><p class="indent">Brooks said their organization offers help to the homeless, including a permanent program for the disabled and a program that pays a new renter’s security deposit or first month’s rent. The Emergency Solutions Grant Program attempts to mediate between a landlord and an evicted tenant.</p><p class="indent">The amount of paperwork, however, can stop some people from applying for help, Brooks said.</p><p class="indent">“There are so many restrictions and a lot of documentation needed,” she said. “For some programs, you must have Medicaid; for another, you must be disabled. It’s just not that easy to get into housing.”</p><p class="indent">Brooks said local residents can help the homeless by donating or volunteering at a local shelter. The real solution, she said, starts with empathy.</p><p class="indent">“I think people don’t put themselves in others’ shoes,” Brooks said.</p><p class="indent">Brooks mentioned one man who went “into a mental spiral” after his wife and unborn child died in a car accident. The organization later arranged a home for him, but he disappeared on the day he was supposed to get the keys.</p><p class="indent">“I saw him about two years later and asked him what happened,” she said. “He said he got scared of having that much responsibility.”</p><p class="indent">City Attorney David Morgan said Geyen and city staff members will meet to discuss further solutions.</p></div>

<strong>‘We can issue citations and arrest them, but after we take that police action, it’s up to the court system.’</strong>

<strong>Shawn Caldwell</strong>

Lake Charles Police Deputy Chief

””<p>In this file photo, the Open Door Biker Church in Sulphur prepares dinner care packages for Thanksgiving. Open Door Biker Church is one of many local organizations that aim to help those in need.</p>Special to the American Press””<p>Abraham’s Tent in Lake Charles is an established non-profit "filling stomachs and souls." </p>Special to the American Press

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