Baton Rouge tracking 40-percent increase in people seeking homeless services
BATON ROUGE - The City of Baton Rouge is tracking alarming numbers that show a 40-percent increase in people seeking services provided by the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless.
The increase was first noted from April to August of this year. It's compared to the prior five months of November 2018 to March 2019 where those seeking help at CAAH were much lower. According to its website, "CAAH serves as the Continuum of Care for the Louisiana parishes of Ascension, East & West Baton Rouge, East & West Feliciana, Iberville, and Pointe Coupee."
Those at CAAH said during the April to August window of 2019, they've tracked at least 400 different people signing up for services as the CAAH each month.
Samuel Deacon Reese is one of those citizens who utilize the services there. A few years ago he fell on tough times and has not been able to pry himself out of his problems.
"Some people are mentally unstable," Reese said. "I'm a paranoid schizophrenic myself, but I deal with it. That's part of it. Drugs alcohol, that's part of it. Some of it's just hard times."
Reese said no one wants to be homeless, but trying to find a job has not been easy.
"It's hard to maintain when you've got a sickness, but I'm going to make it," Reese said. "I pray to God."
The problem is being seen at the CAAH, and the increase is something about which those at city hall are meeting.
"We are increasing our outreach efforts, that is, efforts to get out find out who's on our streets, what's the reasoning," Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Rowdy Gaudet said. "Why they are living without a permanent shelter situation, and what resources, wrap-around services can we get them to lift them out of that situation."
Right now, CAAH and those at city hall have not been able to pinpoint what is causing the increase in needing resources for the homeless in the capital city.
"Communities will go through spikes where the numbers do go up," Gaudet said. "What we are trying to do is continue our good communication with those nonprofit providers to make sure all the resources are connected."
Currently, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome is working with a coalition of organizations that are focused on ending homelessness on a pilot program intended to prevent homelessness and return someone to housing within the first 30 days of experiencing homelessness. Last year, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome awarded over one million dollars to St. Vincent de Paul to expand its homeless shelter capacity by 36 new beds. The facility is anticipated to open in the summer of next year.
"The most compelling thing we see is folks have lost a sense of how to maintain a social network," Gaudet said. "Anytime I talk to a citizen experiencing homelessness we inquire about do you have family, friends... Are you a church member... They allow those social connectors to fall by the wayside and have lost sight on how to maintain those."
As the city continues to target the growing problem, Reese remains hopeful that life's storms won't define him as he prays for better days ahead.
Meetings are ongoing to dig deep into the root cause and discover why there's been such a sharp increase. For the past two years, the city-parish has contracted with a non-profit that gives homeless citizens jobs participating in maintenance and litter pick-up around the parish.
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