DENHAM SPRINGS — Having to turn away a family faced with homelessness is painful, said Judi Adams, director of Women Outreaching Women.
“When you hear that desperation, it’s heartbreaking,” said Adams, who has spent seven years with the organization, also known as WOW, that operates a small shelter for battered women in Livingston Parish.
There’s no such shelter in the parish for the homeless, she said.
“When you look at little kids and can tell they haven’t bathed or had a bed, it’s beyond words,” Adams said.
With a grant just received by the parish to aid in preventing homelessness, Adams said, WOW would be able to go back to extending help not just to battered women and their children, but also to giving aid to more-traditional families and to individuals who face sleeping in a car or under a bridge.
Money from a similar grant ran out this spring. Working with the parish, WOW requested $110,000 from the state, the same amount of money it had previously spent annually helping the homeless, Adams said.
The nonprofit organization didn’t get as much as it hoped for, but Adams said she is thankful for what the organization did receive.
The state gave the parish a $77,250 grant for helping people in danger of becoming homeless, Parish President Layton Ricks said Friday.
People may become homeless for lots of reasons, ranging from abusive home situations to work layoffs, Ricks said.
“This grant will give us some funds to help when tragedy strikes,” Ricks said.
In some cases, what people need is help meeting an energy or water bill or aid in paying a month’s rent, he said.
The funds now available are limited, but are enough to help dozens of families, Ricks said.
The grant came from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, said Heather Crain, the parish’s grant coordinator.
The parish will work with WOW to operate the program, she said.
When people are referred to WOW, the organization will open a case file on the applicants and screen them to make sure the request is legitimate, Crain said.
Applicants’ information then would be placed into a homeless information management system to track the cases, she said.
When its previous program was in place, WOW often received 10 to 15 calls a week from people seeking assistance, Crain said.
During a two-year period beginning in 2009, the organization helped 88 families, she said.
“When we had the other program, people knew we were the only ones that had that program in the parish, and we got a lot of referrals,” Adams said.
Applications must be filled out, but everybody can’t be helped, particularly since WOW won’t have as much money to work with as it had in the past, Adams said.
Livingston has a homeless problem and people sometimes live under bridges, behind service stations and in the edges of wooded areas, she said.
There are also the “hidden homeless,” according to the grant application, which says some people in the parish live in cars or jammed into substandard housing.
Helping a forlorn parent and children and later seeing them flourishing and smiling is rewarding, Adams said.