People experiencing homelessness aren't from Acadiana
It is a common misconception that people experiencing homeless in Acadiana are a transient population or that they come here because of the services available in our community. The majority of individuals and families we serve in our programs are from Lafayette or the surrounding parishes. The men, women, children, and veterans in our shelters, accessing services, are our neighbors. Last year 76 percent of the individuals in our shelter programs were from Louisiana, with 58 percent from Acadiana (an eight parish region including Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion parishes).
People experiencing homelessness don't have jobs
Many people experiencing homeless are employed or employable. Last year, 23% of residents were employed while living in our shelters. The main factors that play into homelessness are lack of jobs that pay a living wage and the lack of affordable housing in our region. By connecting residents with a financial case manager we can assist them in making a budget, accessing mainstream benefits and finding employment. The Re-Housing program at the Msgr. Sigur Center helps individuals and families shorten their experience of homelessness by assisting them with identifying affordable, appropriate housing that meets their needs. Another factor is that many individuals are disabled (physically, mentally, or both) and cannot work. Helping these individuals access the resources they need to successfully regain self-sufficiency can be challenging, but is essential to ending homelessness in Acadiana.
People experiencing homelessness choose to be homeless
Simply put, people do not choose to be homeless over being at home. Though many might assert that they have chosen to be homeless, the reality is that a loss of housing can be caused by many co-occurring factors. Being homeless is not easy. A person must quickly acquire the skills to survive and stay protected from the elements and from other people. Ending chronic homelessness has become a focus of our work because we know that even though an individual may say that they “choose” to be homeless it is more likely that they don’t remember what having a home is like and that they are hesitant of the prospect. We are patient in gaining trust and respect from individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness, with an end goal of ending the experience of homelessness one person and one home at a time.
Here's What We Do Know
Each quarter our staff engages over 100 individuals and assesses their needs to identify who is in critical need of housing. Additionally we work with these individuals to determine affordable housing options. On average, each quarter, our programs re-house 150 individuals and connect them with the resources needed to stay housed. We know that the majority of people experiencing homelessness are from Acadiana, that many have jobs or access mainstream benefits, and most importantly that no one chooses, or deserves homelessness. Ending chronic homelessness and significantly shortening someone’s experience of homelessness will continue to remain a major focus of our work.