Twenty year ago, I founded The Well to minister to people needing shelter and restoration. Their most basic need was for an address and a shower. When we started the project, the City of Lafayette identified one unsheltered homeless person in the 1990 census. The Bowen administration did not see any need for programs or dialogue about the needs of the homeless. When we opened The Well, 15,000 people came through the door in the first year.
At last month's council meeting, Lafayette's City-Parish Council continued to ignore, delay, and defer making decisions about the housing needs of special populations. While a community dismisses real needs of real people, we will suffer the consequences. Jails and hospitals are serving as shelters to people whose real issue is homelessness. Ignoring the root causes of homelessness has a huge price tag for a community.
Our nonprofit organization, Unhindered, Inc, has a housing initiative program called "The Mustard Seed," based on the Biblical strategy Jesus described in the parable about the power of the mustard seed. It is one of the smallest seeds on earth; yet when it is sown, it grows and becomes great. Unhindered is calling for people to participate in a focus group to give input on crucial issues related to housing and homelessness in Acadiana. We want to develop a new collaborative model that links private enterprise, nonprofits, foundations, religious organizations and governments to create solutions.
Solutions include development of sustainable and affordable housing, increasing the inventory of rental housing, development of housing for people living with disabilities and removing barriers to home ownership. The group will explore the conditions that lead to homelessness. Of special concern is the growing population of fathers who are unable to support their children. Other issues will be identified by the participants.
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