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."
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
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The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.