The Wellspring of Monroe offers assistance for homeless families and veterans throughout

Caldwell, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union and West Carroll.

Kristy Hodges, director of Home At Last, recently attended a council meeting in Sterlington along with Billy Varner with the Supportive Services for Homeless Veterans Program to discuss some of the things The Wellspring can offer for families and veterans facing homelessness.

“I just want to let you know that our programs do serve The Wellspring is pretty big, but our department is called Outreach Prevention and Rapid Rehousing so we serve the homeless, and we actually serve 12 parishes,” Hodges said. “It's not just Ouachita Parish. We are located in Monroe downtown on Jackson Street. That's where our office is, but we serve the rural areas around us. In general, you typically don't see as much of a homeless population in the rural areas. They won't migrate to rural areas because there are not as many resources — shelters, soup kitchens, and that time of thing. However, there are some in the rural areas and so we do have program called Home At Last, which is for homeless families. They have to have at least one dependent child and of course meet income regulations — be under a certain income limit.”

Families in the program are provided with food, clothing, shelter, housing, necessary bill assistance, transportation, healthcare, prescriptions, child care, case management, life skills training and job training and assistance. Some of the life skills training includes financial empowerment, job preparation, managing conflict and housing counseling.

“I'm the one that goes out into the wooded areas, under the bridges looking for homeless individuals especially veterans,” Varner said. “You know people think — including myself prior to getting into this field — I thought that a homeless individual was an individual that was suffering from a mental illness, substance abuse and was standing around on the corner. Well, I found out that they look just like you and I and often times they are walking, they're going to town. They're doing just the same things that we do. They are working minimum wage jobs and their working during the day while the kids are in school and they're sleeping in their cars and their sleeping in parks at night. With the veteran population, we're seeing more and more of our young people that are going overseas not once, not twice, not three times often they're going five and six times and they're not coming back the same way they left...Often times they lose loved ones. They lose parents, sisters, brothers, siblings and they have to deal with these situations. When they get back here, sometimes the wife's gone, the husband's gone so they don't have anywhere to live and a result sometimes they do turn to self-medication and that creates another problem and we've found that a lot of the individuals in the wooded areas are veterans. And that myth about they want to be homeless. No, they don't want to be homeless. The myth about they didn't manage their funds right. Wrong. Imagine a major catastrophe happening within our homes whether it be medical or whatever the case would be. Often times that's what happens and they are drained of all of their resources and all of their funds and ultimately they end up on the street.”

To help these veterans, The Wellspring offers a variety of services including housing counseling and search assistance, vocational rehabilitation counseling, educational assistance, healthcare services and referrals for obtaining VA and community benefits.

“Something that the more rural areas may have that we do have is called our prevention piece,” Hodges said. “Both our Home At Last and our Veteran Services offer prevention so if there are families at risk of losing housing, facing an eviction then we have state and federal funding to help those families, too.”

For more information about these programs, contact The Wellspring office at 318.807.6200 or 318.323.1505 or 1.800.716.7233.