Homeless Simulation creates true-to-life experience

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Human Services Department hosted a free Homeless Simulation on Thursday, giving community members, business leaders and social service workers the chance to better understand what the homeless community endures daily.

Over the course of four cycles, attendees assumed new “homeless” identities and navigated booths representing social services, shelters and housing projects in an attempt to find housing. The simulation was designed with the actual quantity of resources available to homeless citizens in Calcasieu Parish, creating a true-to-life, local experience.

“Hopefully, this will help take that stigma off those individuals that you see out holding the signs because you don’t know their backstory,” Amanda Hartley, program coordinator, said.

During the simulation debrief, one “homeless mother” said the experience “was a lot of waiting lists and a lot of, ‘Come back tomorrow.’” Another woman added, “It’s like you’re not homeless if you don’t live in your car or on the street. Well, I’m getting ready to live in my car. Can’t we do something before that? It’s just so frustrating.”

Kristin Brooks, homeless programs supervisor, said the two scenarios are very common. She said most Department of Housing and Urban Development programs have different definitions of what is considered homeless.

“If you’re sofa surfing, HUD doesn’t consider that homeless,” she said. “You have to literally be on the streets in order for a lot of the participants to qualify for our programs, and that’s hard.”

Many participants mentioned the difficulty of having no proper identification. Joe Thompson, who is homeless, said it’s typically the biggest hindrance to upward mobility.

“You don’t have that (identification), you’re stuck,” he said. “You can’t get nothing. I know my name, but to them my name is just mud.”

Participants asked what could be done to alleviate the local homeless crisis. Brooks said that obtaining financing for programs is difficult because of inaccuracies in official counts. As of January during its annual survey, the department counted 84 un-sheltered individuals and 49 sheltered, she said.

“On a daily basis, we know there are more than 84 people who are un-sheltered,” she said. “But it’s all we can report, and that affects how much money we get for our region. A lot of them are scared to give up their information because they think they’re going to get arrested or think ‘I’ve committed this crime and it’s going to follow me.’”

The Human Services Department will also host a Homeless Shelter Community Resource Fair on July 28-29 at the Allen P. August Annex, 2000 Moeling St. The event will double as an overnight shelter for area homeless residents and an opportunity to gain information on Medicaid/Medicare benefits, legal services, veterans services, housing services, food stamp information, employment resources and basic health screenings and hepatitis shots.

Transportation services will be offered at 2 p.m. Sunday at Abraham’s Tent, 2424 Fruge St.; at 3 p.m. in the Taco Bell parking lot, 3407 Gerstner Memorial Blvd.; and 4 p.m. at the Lake Charles Civic Center, 901 Lakeshore Drive.

For more information, call 721-4060.

‘If you’re sofa surfing, HUD doesn’t consider that homeless. You have to literally be on the streets in order for a lot of the participants to qualify for our programs.’

Kristin Brooks

Homeless programs supervisor

””homeless simulation