Providence House in Shreveport, Louisiana. Photos by Ursula Brantley.
Parents everywhere are doing their best to provide stable homes for their families.
But in this economy, the twists and turns of life can make it impossible for many to provide for their children. Some people are now homeless. They are not “bums,” asking for change. Some homeless people are our co-workers, cashiers and even our children’s friends from school. Fortunately, there are organizations such as the Providence House in Shreveport, who care enough to help those who cannot always help themselves.
The Providence House opened its doors in 1989, with a goal to help homeless families with children. It was designed, not only to provide shelter for families, but also to help them become self-sufficient. Today Providence cares for close to 27 families. Each one has a room and shares a bathroom with another family.
They are given two years to complete the program. During that time, Providence covers their living expenses so that families are able to focus on priorities such as counseling, employment and housing. Even though some families do not complete the program, it still boasts an 85 percent success rate. The families that finish are sometimes given a home of their own in the Shreveport/Bossier City area, where Providence owns apartments.
The organization also runs a Domestic Violence Safe House, which houses 20 families with children and 15 single women at an undisclosed location. Since The Providence House is a non-profit, funded through foundations and private donors. Yet $.85 of every $1, donated goes directly to the program, and the remainder is used to employ 60 people who help to run their Education Center.
At the Education Center, adults are tutored for General Educational Development tests, while learning new skills that will increase their chances of landing employment. Also offered at Providence is the Safe House and Domestic Violence Program, the Sexual Assault Advocacy Program, and the Child Development Center – the only center for homeless children in Louisiana.
In less than two years, Director of Development Laura Perdue, has committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness, one family a time. Having worked at various non-profit organizations, Perdue is no stranger to helping those in need.
She spends most of her days balancing budgets to ensure that Providence remains debt free. Yet her passion for giving has never changed. Last Christmas, the organization set a record for the number of families it helped. At the same time, they set a record for the number of families they could not help.
Perdue believes that the success of the program is based not only on dedicated volunteers, or generous contributors, but also on Providence’s structure. Successful independence depends on three things: education, affordable childcare, and reliable transportation.
Providence’s Working to Learn Program, said Perdue, allows parents and guardians to earn their GEDs. The average adult in their program has a sixth-grade to eighth-grade education. The opportunity to obtain a GED is an incredible milestone and often times, their ticket to college.
I agree with Purdue when she says it is not affordable housing that makes or breaks families these days. It is the process of getting a job that will allow you to provide for yourself and your family. Reliable and affordable childcare and the ability to get to and from work is important to any family. Right now, there are children who are sleeping in cars at night and going to school during the day and this could very well be the only life that they know. They’re thankful for the meals that they got at school, but once they get out it could very well be dumpster diving for dinner.
Homelessness isn’t just the bum on the streets or the crazy lady at the gas station with the dog. It is the cashier at the grocery store or your child’s best friend from school.
I learned a long time ago to never say “never,” because “never” could be tomorrow or even today. Just like Mrs. Perdue, I am eternally grateful for what I do have because things could be worse. I may not have a lot, but I thank God for what He has given me. The world can be a selfish place, but there are still angels among us ready to lend that much-needed helping hand.
Meet the Author of this series: Ursula Brantley
“If you give somebody hope, you’ve given them the world,” said Ursula Brantley of Shreveport, Louisiana.
As a community writer, Brantley is passionate about her hometown, the people who endeavor to make it a better place, and the kids who live there. Some of Shreveport’s children are homeless and abandoned by their parents, while others are victims of drug-addicted parents and the juvenile justice system. Brantley doesn’t mind. She likes the underdog.
“More people need to hear the story of the underdog because that’s what America is made of.”
But what does this have to do with planning cities? Though cities often deal in large-scale transit systems, sweeping policy decisions, and massive infrastructure projects, it is the neighbor-to-neighbor bonds that gives them life.
Brantley has her eye on the human connections that make Shreveport special. Specifically, she values the founders and managers of non-profit organizations who are committed to serving Shreveport’s youth in their moments of crisis. Brantley sees a deep link between the love and dignity society offers its children now, and the world they will lead as adults.
She developed the idea to compose a series of blog posts about positive work happening in Shreveport. She wrote:
Over the course of the series, you’ll be introduced to a few local groups who are really going that extra mile to help the community. Each article will spotlight a different group or organization allowing everyone to hear about the great works that they’re doing in the community. … My sole purpose for writing is to inspire people to do positive things and be positive people. I’m not sure if anyone has been truly inspired by my positive acts, but I’ll continue to write so that one day I can maybe inspire one person.
This is the first of five posts in a series. Brantley offers you each story in her own words, from her own experience.
– Alexa Mills, CoLab Radio