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|Efforts intensify to assist homeless|
Local officials hope more people will help those in need here in northeast Louisiana as part of ongoing efforts to stamp out homelessness. Officials hope to achieve that goal within a decade.
A recent survey by the Homeless Coalition of Northeast Louisiana found that almost 300 people are being housed in northeast Louisiana homeless shelters. That number does not reflect those who may be living in their vehicles or on the streets.
Of those living in local shelters, approximately 61 percent are homeless families with children.
Mayor Jamie Mayo said homelessness is not "something isolated to certain segments of our society."
"Some people would lead you to believe that homelessness is an issue faced only by uneducated, poor, minority, mentally-challenged or drug-addicted people," Mayo said. "The facts are a combination of unfortunate situations could cause many of us to become homeless."
"Yes, there are some people who choose to live a destructive lifestyle which causes them to lose everything," Mayo continued. "But there are others who find themselves unable to pay their mortgage because a plant closure cost them their job, a child became really sick and hospital bills went through the roof or an abusive relationship forced them to leave."
The city of Monroe is using almost $120,000 in federal funding this year to help aid more than 3,000 local men, women and children in need.
The money is being provided to various local agencies, including The Wellspring, Salvation Army, Monroe Area Guidance and Our House.
In addition to Monroe's funding, the Homeless Coalition of Northeast Louisiana secured more than $1 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help local residents in need.
Mayo urged residents all over northeast Louisiana to "do their part to help those who are in need."
He said ordinary citizens can make a difference but only if they choose to act.
In many cases, local law enforcement agencies are often the community's first line of contact with the homeless.
Monroe Police Department's Maj. Jimmy Fried said, "When we see them, we check on them to see how they're doing."
Officers typically offer information about shelter and services whenever the opportunity arises.
Often, homeless people are victims of crime.
In January, two men were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder when they attacked a homeless man on 18th Street in Monroe. The two men also were charged with a hate crime.
"They get robbed or get in fights, and those crimes are often not reported," Fried said.
With a national foreclosure crisis ongoing, advocates for the homeless are reporting increases in the numbers of those needing shelter.
According to the National Homeless Coalition, more people made homeless by foreclosure are showing up at shelters or living in their vehicles.
Northeastern Louisiana agencies have a 10-year plan to stamp out homelessness in this region by moving families and individuals to permanent housing.
The plan involves providing new beds for "chronically homeless persons" as well as providing training and resources for employment.
For more information about efforts to assist local families and individuals in need, contact the Homeless Coalition at 651-9314, or visit www.aroofovermyhead.net.