United Way advances the common good by maintaining programs that provide food, shelter, and personal safety.
Food. Food's about the most basic need there is. We provide funding for the Salvation Army, which serves two meals a day at its downtown offices. We also fund Manna House, where anyone can be served a hot lunch, no questions asked.
Shelter. The Salvation Army provides emergency shelter for men in its downtown Alexandria facility. Hope House provides longer-term, transitional shelter for homeless women and their children, helping them move forward to become independent.
Personal Safety. Unfortunately, domestic violence and child abuse are real issues in Central Louisiana. When people need protection and support, we fund several places they can turn to:
- Family Justice Center - Located in Pineville next to the old Huey P. Long Hospital, the Family Justice Center combines multiple services and agencies, including law enforcement, so that survivors of domestic violence can get the help they need. The agency uniquely coordinates various law enforcement and service agencies around the Cenla area. Last year, 342 women, children, and men received services from the FJC and partnering agencies in Central Louisiana. Help takes the form of weekly support groups, court advocacy, counseling, domestic violence support and education, referrals, and transportation to shelters. The above figure does not include the services provided by our two other important onsite partners: 1) our dedicated Detective with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Organization, and 2) NextSTEP of Central Louisiana, a teen dating violence program. The FJC provides a building, utilities, phone, internet, reception, and other resources as well as support for these two agencies and for Faith House.
- Faith House helps survivors of domestic abuse in Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes, as well as the Acadiana area where they are based. Last year in Avoyelles and Rapides parishes, 449 women, children and men received services from our advocates. Services were provided such as counseling, referrals, transportation and advocacy. Faith House also provides financial assistance for rent and utilities; 840 nights were provided to women and children survivors of domestic violence through our rental assistance program and 17 people received utility assistance. Faith House has been an enormous help in starting Cenla’s Family Justice Center.
- Wellspring Alliance - Based in Monroe, the Wellspring Alliance for Families provided life-saving emergency shelter for 131 individuals and 145 children in imminent danger and fleeing violent abusers. The agency assisted 29 domestic violence clients in Catahoula, Concordia, and LaSalle parishes. A total of 97% felt increased personal safety and gained awareness of community resources. Children surveyed said they understood the abuse was not their fault – an important factor in healing from the trauma of abuse.
- The Children's Advocacy Network has two major programs in which we invest. The CASA program (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) matches trained volunteers to advocate in court for children in foster care. The goal is to move the children out of foster care and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. In 2018, for example, 475 out of 481 children – 99% – served by a CASA volunteer did not re-experience maltreatment while in foster care this year. More than half of the children served by a CASA were moved out of foster care within 18 months. The Children’s Advocacy Center works with children who have been abused or neglected. Through therapy and expert interviewers, the Center seeks to reduce the amount of trauma a child experiences after the abuse. The agency works with law enforcement and therapists so that the child doesn’t have to relive the trauma of abuse in the process of getting help. Last year they interviewed 530 child survivors of abuse; 87% were able to avoid reliving their experience prior to contact with the Center.
Disaster Response: When floods or other disasters occur, our United Way of Central Louisiana responds. Our normal role is to fund agencies such as the Central Louisiana arm of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. However, we respond when local shelters need supplies, as we did following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 Sometimes we just provide a central point for sharing information through 211, as we did in Hurricane Barry in 2019. Sometimes the disaster doesn't even have a name, as was the case with unexpected floods in March 2016. We funded recovery efforts in over 50 households located in Grant, LaSalle, Rapides, and Vernon parishes. We helped purchase materials and labor for much-needed repairs to roofs and replacing moldy drywall. Most of the households we have helped were those of elderly and/or disabled homeowners who were unable financially or physically to make repairs themselves. In some cases, homeowners had made some repairs and were unable to complete them alone, and our assistance completed their recovery.
Our Unmet Needs Committee is itself a coalition of several agencies: United Way of Central Louisiana, the Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Rapides Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, Region 6 of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), the pastors of two local United Methodist Churches, and the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. We were able to secure funding from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, to provide additional funding.