Domestic violence shelter to open in Cenla after a decade gap in available resources

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:42 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2022 at 6:57 PM CST
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CENTRAL LOUISIANA (KALB) - An unsettling trend is growing across Louisiana due to a lack of services available to address domestic violence.

For a decade, victims in Central Louisiana have suffered while not having a shelter in any of the eight local parishes, including Vernon, LaSalle, Grant, Winn, Concordia, Catahoula, Rapides and Avoyelles.

While there are limited overnight services locally, the other 16 domestic abuse shelters in Louisiana are facing difficult hurdles protecting victims with not enough space to place them. According to a 2021 report from the state’s auditor’s office, Louisiana shelters average 2,659 unmet requests per year.

“It’s really difficult to manage those calls when you know that the resources are so very limited,” said Billi Lacombe, the executive director for Faith House, a domestic violence crisis center and shelter based in Lafayette.

Last year’s audit was specifically conducted due to Louisiana having the second-highest rate of female homicide in the nation and fifth highest in 2018. According to the report, “the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated domestic violence, as abuse victims were often trapped in homes with their abusers during stressful times caused by self-isolation.”

During this time, despite not having a local shelter, people living in Central Louisiana were not excluded from suffering from domestic abuse. Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle said, in fact, Central Louisiana has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse.

“When you are a domestic abuse victim and you have family, it’s very difficult to stay in a hotel for two or three days,” said Riddle. “Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes months to resettle. If you can resettle locally, you can have the support of your family here.”

Starting in 2023, there will be hope for families or individuals that are suffering from domestic abuse. Those victims will no longer have to travel far and wide to receive support as one former nursing home will be refurbished and turned into a domestic abuse shelter, the only one in the central part of the state.

With the help from Faith House, the Rio Sol Nursing Home in Mansura will transform into a needed valuable asset that will be able to house up to 100 residents at a home.

“Shelter is the most crucial service victims of domestic violence need whenever they are fleeing for their safety,” said Lacombe. “Having this opportunity or this resource in our community will allow people to escape from harm and abuse in an immediate fashion.”

The shelter will be open to men, women and children. According to research done by the Faith House, about four million women are battered by their partners each year, and four in six children in every classroom witness violence in their homes.

Faith House expects the domestic abuse shelter to be open in April 2023. They are asking for volunteers and helpers to come to assist in cleaning up the old nursing home for it to open in time.

For anyone suffering from domestic abuse, call 1-888-411-1333 for a 24/7 confidential hotline.

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