This month, C.A.R.E.S. received the donation of a facility that encompasses more than 70,000 square feet on five acres in north Lafayette. "We went from being thrown out on the street to being handed this huge donation," says C.A.R.E.S. Director Claude Martin. "The irony of what we went through in one year's time is mind boggling."
Lafayette Guest House, formerly a 206-bed nursing facility with an adjacent inpatient psychiatric hospital, Oceans Behavior Healthcare, was given to C.A.R.E.S. by Jerrine Harrell of Alexandria, Donna McPherson (wife of Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth), and Lafayette resident John Wright. The trio own numerous nursing homes across the state, each registered as different LLCs and managed by Central Control Inc. The corporation also owns Magnolia Estates on Dulles Drive, and recently opened Camelot of Broussard, a new $17 million multi-faceted geriatric care and nursing facility. The clients of Lafayette Guest House moved to Camelot in September 2006, leaving the nursing home on Martin Luther King Drive vacant.
"We could have sold it," Wright says. The empty facility is in the process of being appraised ' and will be valued in the neighborhood of $3.5 million, according to Wright. The decision to make the donation is a combination of good business ' being able to claim a charitable donation on taxes, and doing something positive for the community. "We asked ourselves what is the highest and best use of this facility," Wright says. "And we thought it might work as a shelter."
Wright called his niece, Kimberly James, executive director of Lafayette Catholic Service Centers. Catholic Services runs St. Joseph's Diner, St. Joseph's Shelter for Men, and the New Life Center in Opelousas, among other services which provide emergency assistance with rent, utilities, food, clothing, medicine, shelter, furnishings, medical and dental care. James had just started construction on a shelter at 427 St. John St. to house homeless veterans and didn't feel that her organization could undertake the renovations necessary on the huge nursing home. "It was too much for us," James says. "We felt that C.A.R.E.S. was the best fit. I think very highly of Claude."
Says Wright, "Kimberly hooked me up with Claude. We thought Acadiana C.A.R.E.S. was a worthwhile organization that had a great need, and we had a way to resolve it." By making the donation to C.A.R.E.S., Wright says "we could be assured that what happened last year would never happen again."
Lafayette Guest House and Oceans Behavior Healthcare were located in separate buildings on the same campus. When CCI signed over the building, they also donated Ocean's remaining two-and-a-half year lease to C.A.R.E.S., with the intention that the income could help with renovations and maintenance. Oceans subsequently moved out, leaving their building vacant. Oceans is debating whether to buy out their lease or find a sublessor to occupy the building for the remaining term of their lease. Either action gives C.A.R.E.S. working income.
In C.A.R.E.S' first phase of its expansion, it will relocate its residential programs for HIV/AIDS victims and disabled individuals to the site. Thirty of the nursing home rooms will be renovated into 15 apartments, each with a bedroom, bath, kitchenette, living and dining area. This will triple C.A.R.E.S.' permanent residential capacity and allow all its clients to live in one facility. Following in January 2008, C.A.R.E.S. will relocate its counseling offices, food bank, community meeting spaces and administrative offices. C.A.R.E.S. will vacate its downtown location by March 2008.
Martin envisions a facility that goes beyond the mission of C.A.R.E.S. To that end, he has assembled a task force made up of members of the Acadiana Regional Coalition for Homelessness, in conjunction with his new neighbors in the Truman area, to brainstorm how the facility can best serve the disadvantaged. "We're in the early stages of talking to other agencies who want to be under the same roof," he says. "All of us in social agencies working with these populations want to put this together."
C.A.R.E.S. has long sought to develop a daycare program that will provide childcare services to low- and moderate-income families. The new facility has room for educational programs and green space for playgrounds. Another goal is to build a substance abuse treatment program starting in 2008, which will include in-house 28-day treatment, followed by release to a halfway house, which will be housed at the facility in the future.
Meanwhile, James, who has been in discussion with the Veterans Administration to build more housing for homeless veterans, saw an opportunity to partner with C.A.R.E.S. Lafayette Catholic Service Centers is building a shelter which will offer two-year housing for 12 disabled veterans. In the next year, they hope to expand and shelter a total of 16 vets. Even with that increase, the VA is requesting more beds in this area. James and Martin are considering the possibility of using some of C.A.R.E.S.' new real estate to house homeless veterans, who could then benefit from Housing and Urban Development programs for the chronically homeless run by C.A.R.E.S.
Martin is also reaching out to the architects, designers and benefactors who helped build and furnish Hope House's original location. "I've already had phone calls offering help," he says. "The community is already responding."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
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A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
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The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.