LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Whether it’s non-affordable rent, lack of adequate mental health care, or a result of the pandemic — homelessness is on the rise in Acadiana.
If you’ve driven through Lafayette, you’ve most likely noticed an increase in the number of people on corners asking for help.
St. Pius X Mission Club Director James Wagnon noticed his organization has been serving an influx of people without homes.
“There are entire families that are out there on the street with very limited shelter to provide for them,” said Wagnon.
One coalition working to make sure everyone in Acadiana has access to housing — Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness and Housing (ARCH).
“The main mission for ARCH is to help support the community in its mission to end homelessness and housing instability,” said ARCH Executive Director Leigh Rachal.
In January 2020, ARCH identified a total of 420 homeless people in the Acadiana region.
“That could be homelessness because of a hurricane, a fire, or they hit hard times economically,” said Rachal.
Since the start of the pandemic, the numbers have skyrocketed, she said.
“Since March 2020 this region has seen over 1,000 individuals and families who have had to seek assistance from shelters and homeless outreach workers,” said Rachal.
The addition of people relying on the support of the community by panhandling has been observed by local government, as well. Starting in Summer 2021, signs discouraging panhandling began to emerge. The signs carry a message suggesting “Panhandling is not safe. Change the way you give. Call 211.”
“Even with families who have people working, the cost of housing has gotten so expensive,” said Rachal. “Lafayette has the highest rental rates in the entire state.”
While the pandemic has further complicated the housing crisis, there are several organizations working to make an impact. One program ARCH offers is the Share House, where people being rehoused can stock up on a few essentials.
“Whatever the reason is — if they’ve been out of their home and lost all of their belongings — this is a way to give them a little bit of a jumpstart,” said Rachal. “There’s so many things to replace.”
Endhomelessness.org reported 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in January 2020 — so the issue isn’t isolated to Lafayette or even Louisiana — but here’s how to get assistance locally.
Calling (337) 232-HELP is the first step anyone facing a crisis should take. 232-HELP is a partner of ARCH, which offers programs providing shelter and rental assistance.
However, while not limited to, Rachel says wages need to keep up, and housing needs to be affordable so people don’t become homeless in the first place. Attached to this story online is information on assistance also offered by catholic charities
If there’s an ongoing issue in your community that you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at DialDalfred@KLFY.com.