Recently, there have been a number of media stories regarding aggressive panhandling in the downtown Baton Rouge area. While some of this has been attributed to people who are homeless, anyone who has studied the issue of panhandling knows that this is not always the case.
At St. Vincent de Paul, we are wholeheartedly against panhandling, and here’s why: It does not help someone to break the cycle of homelessness. We embrace a Housing First philosophy that helps to find permanent housing solutions for people in need. Ending homelessness one person at a time is at the heart of our homeless services, and we are extremely grateful to our supporters who have helped us to make such an impact in our community.
Last year, we provided shelter to more than 1,500 homeless people, providing over 33,000 guest nights of shelter to homeless men, women, children, and families – all free of charge –with a focus of getting people off the streets and helping them to take the next steps in their lives. In our community, and throughout most of the nation, rents are high – and rising – which is a significant factor in homelessness. Fortunately, because of our services, 1,500 individuals were not homeless or living on the streets last year.
In addition to night shelter, case management, and other services provided at our main charitable campus, St. Vincent de Paul’s Conferences do a remarkable job of preventing homelessness before it ever happens. Last year, volunteers made over 2,000 home visits and provided over $600,000 in assistance, whether it was paying someone’s rent or utility bill or helping them with furnishings or food. Every time our Conferences helped someone with these basic necessities, they were helping them to remain in their homes.
When it comes to hunger, we’ve all seen the “Will work for Food” signs, but keep in mind that, at St. Vincent de Paul, since 1982, we have served hot, nutritious meals to people at risk of homelessness, as well as those who are homeless. In addition to a hot lunch, we give out brown bag suppers to-go, so no one in our community has to go hungry.
Every day, our Dining Room serves between 200 and 500 individuals in need. You’ll notice that there aren’t 200 to 500 individuals in our community holding “Will work for food” signs. Why? Because of the services we provide. And we are here because of your prayers, volunteerism, and financial support.
Just think about what would happen if those who are truly homeless had nowhere to turn for a hot meal, a warm bed, assistance in breaking an addiction, or help with a mental health problem. We are a safety net because of you, and we are asking for your help.
Recently we posted about our Hope Card. All of our services are free of charge. Let your family and friends know about it. Click here to print copies. Then, if you see someone who is homeless, give a card to them.
Our services would not be possible without the generosity and support of our community, and people like you. Please get the word out to your family and friends about the great work of St. Vincent de Paul. On behalf of the thousands of people we serve every year, thank you for helping us to make a real difference in the lives of the poor and homeless.
– Michael J. Acaldo, President & CEO, St. Vincent de Paul Charities