HOPE for the Homeless has headed northwest Louisiana’s homeless coalition since 2001.
Each year HUD designates over $3 million in funds to serve the homeless specifically. Over 60 agencies and individuals serving those who experience homelessness meet each month to take a “big picture” look at the solutions to end homelessness. “We believe that every person deserves a door that locks and we are willing to make that happen”, said Christa Pazzaglia, executive director for Hope for the Homeless. “It takes a coalition of agencies to make that happen.”
When the coalition of agencies meet, the focus is on an individual who is homeless. A set of issues are discussed that are specific to that client and all the agencies involved offer resources they can offer to get that person housed. Monthly homeless coalition meetings begin by gathering all agencies involved, updating, and distributing information on the services that each agency provides. By educating the community about homelessness and the agencies that work so hard to address this issue, HOPE for the Homeless has been very successful in getting people off the streets and into their own homes.
The organization’s success began to grow when the staff attended a conference held by The 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national organization that addresses how to house the homeless in a way completely different than what has been done in the past. They realized that the client isn’t going to be the one who changed; so, it is up to the organization to change how they see homelessness. “The 100,000 Homes Campaign says, we can take people who cannot be housed and house them”, Christa said. “They are given vouchers and we prioritize their needs. Instead of putting the hardest to house at the bottom of the list, we make those people our top priority.”
The staff at HOPE for the Homeless do not expect clients to fall into a set of rules that do not work. As one of the leading organizations nationally who are housing people successfully, their success has come by doing most anything it takes to get people off the street as well as addressing the life decisions that got them in the place they are today. “We wrap them with services and they stay there, they are not perfect and they don’t stay off alcohol and drugs and they don’t take their meds. We are not in the business of making people perfect, we are in the business of getting them off the street and then how to stay housed. This new approach is completely backwards from how we were approaching homelessness before the 100,000 Home Campaign strategies.”
One of the myths Christa is very passionate about educating the public on is that most people believe those who are homeless choose or want to be homeless. Anyone who is offered the chance to have a door that locks behind them will choose that option. As Christa proclaims any time she is given the opportunity is “Having a door that locks is a game changer. We under estimate how powerful it is to walk in a door and lock it behind us and go to sleep. Everyone will choose that over sleeping in the streets.”
Christa says her favorite client is “Billy.” He is schizophrenic, an on and off again crack addict and alcoholic. His family steals his monthly disability check he receives for being developmentally challenged. “Billy keeps me going,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing he did that made him deserve to live on the street. And he is the reason I love this job, because he needs housing. He doesn’t have issues, he has every issue.”
Her reasoning is simple, if they can figure out how to house him, they can figure out how to house anyone. “We get paid to house homeless people and to end homelessness with tax dollars. We are not here to play around. It’s emotionally draining and exhausting and a lot of work, but it is paying off.”
Those in need know they can get help at 2350 Levy Street. People who are without shelter can get a meal, pick up their mail, take their meds, get counseling, a women’s group, and mental health groups. There are life skills classes as well as rape prevention for homeless women. Hope for the Homeless has been working on the new location on Levy Street for almost a year now. The building will house over 10 agencies under one roof to help fight homelessness throughout the city. The building is expected to open in February of 2014.
A donation to HOPE for the Homeless strengthens the network of community providers and the Street Outreach team. There are volunteer opportunities available and tax deductible donations are accepted. For more information go to www.nwlahope.org or call (318) 670-4591. The mailing address is:HOPE for the Homeless 2350 Levy Street Shreveport LA 71103
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