A small facility that’s big in heart and service to the Teche Area’s homeless has expanded its reach this year to include women and children.
The Iberia Homeless Shelter on Robertson Street has been a refuge for men in Iberia Parish and surrounding parishes since 2005. It was a haven for those who needed a place for shelter and encouragement towards a new start.
As of January 2018, that same opportunity has been offered to women and children.
“Me and my little girl’s dad had gotten into altercation and I had to leave that environment,” Karen Laporte said.
“I came here and Mr. Thaddeus helped me with counseling and to eventually get a stable home for me and my 4-year-old daughter,” she said, referring to Thaddeus Robinson, the outreach specialist at the shelter.
Domestic violence is just one of the social issues that causes workers at Iberia Homeless Shelter to open its one room apartment to females in need of refuge.
Workers make use of other agencies in the region that also help with domestic violence counseling, and drug and alcohol rehab, to try and stabilize the people who come through their door.
“We first find those that are homeless in Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion parishes,” Robinson said.
“I go out and search and these families are in shelters, in tents, under carports, in parks with their children and I advise them that there is help for them,” he said.
Along with finding persons on the streets, referrals are made by social service agencies and agencies like the United Way of Iberia.
Word-of-mouth also leads some victims to the shelter, now that its doors have been opened long enough to create success stories.
“Mr. Steve (Stephen Etienne, executive director of Iberia Homeless Shelter) found me asleep on the street and I came here and I started going to Keys (Outpatient Behavioral Clinic) because I had a drug problem,” Harold Laporte said.
“I left Keys and I’ve been in my own apartment now for two years,” he said. “I’m glad females can get help too now.
Laporte tells other homeless persons in the area about the shelter and why it may be the answer they need.
“I tell them that are on the street that its a safe place where you can get off the street take a bath everyday and try to stay clean (from drugs),” he said.
Wanda LeBlanc is one of the women who heard about the shelter through Laporte’s testimony. She hasn’t had to use their service but she’s sharing its mission with others.
“I had someone telling me that there are so many people in the trees off of Walton, there’s about nine people living among those trees in tents, “Laporte said. “I tell them there’s help.”
Expanding its services to reach women is a service that came by mandate from the state. However the small staff of workers said there is a very small pool of financial resources.
“We’re short on funds but that doesn’t stop us,” Robinson said. “We help the forgotten people. A lot of people talk about them but we are out here helping them.”
Robinson said permanent housing is the number one goal in assisting people who walk through their doors. He said until shelter recipients can show a consistent effort in staying away from their abuser or staying away from drugs and alcohol they may not be successful in maintaining their own households. He said the shelter helps them with the tools they need to become consistent in recovery. Robinson said despite financial limitations the shelter’s mission remains to fight homelessness one person at a time.
“Now I feel independent because I’m providing for my daughter and I still go to counseling,” Laporte said.
In order to help with funding, the shelter is holding a raffle fundraiser.
For $10, people can purchase a chance to win two prime seat tickets to the LSU vs. Alabama football game that comes with a hotel $100 spending card and parking pass. The winner will be announced on KANE radio at 11 a.m on Oct. 19.
For more information call the Iberia Homeless Shelter at 369-9900.