Caddo Commission expected to battle homelessness

Caddo Commission expected to battle homelessness
In 2010, a  KSLA News 12 special report discovered that about 1,000 people were on the streets or sleeping in cars or emergency shelters. Two hundred of those were veterans.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - On Monday, the Caddo Parish Commission's Long Range Planning Committee is expected to tackle the issue of homelessness in Shreveport.

Shreveport was recently recognized earlier this year by federal agencies for the progress the city has made to end veteran homelessness.

But some fear the chronic homeless population is still gathering in large numbers in and around the downtown area.

According to HOPE Connections, the homeless population in Shreveport- Bossier has dropped substantially in the last 5 years. That includes a 19 percent drop in unsheltered homeless and a 79 percent drop in the number of chronic homeless people.

The biggest reduction, according to HOPE Connection figures, is a 100-percent drop in unsheltered veterans from 2012 to 2016.

HOPE spearheads a coalition of local agencies dedicated to putting an end to homelessness.

Despite the major decline in the number of people homeless the problem has not vanished. And with a poverty rate nearly double the national average, at about 30 percent, some say it's little wonder why.

"When you have a poverty rate that high is, you have a number of systemic problems in your community," said The HUB Urban Ministries Executive Director Weston Brown, during a recent interview.

Those systemic problems include homelessness. The HUB Urban Ministries" offers the Lovewell Center, helping people out of poverty through an earnings-based approach.

Another highly-publicized idea indicating a rise in the homeless population is the construction of a $200,000 fence around the Caddo Parish Courthouse. Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator has strongly supported the idea in recent interviews.

"We've never had the homeless problem that we have now. We've never had the mental illness problem. We've never had a polarized society like we have now," said Sheriff Prator.

A similar fence ordinance failed in 2016. This time the Caddo Commission has delayed a decision until January of 2018.

Likewise, the commission voted two weeks ago to send a proposal back to a committee that would have put a $134,000 Portland Loo public restroom on the courthouse grounds.

Then there's Willie Love II, the Shreveport man KSLA News 12 caught up with back in August, who had spent the previous two months helping the homeless by donating a few meals every week.

"They ask for food and one day it was in my heart, you don't have to ask me today. Let's just purchase a meal and feed someone," said Love.

Some say Love's well-intended efforts only exacerbate the homeless problem.

One man offered his perspective on being homeless.

"My family, we don't see eye to eye. So I'm just, I'm on my own," revealed 63-year-old Sylvester Jefferson of Shreveport.

The Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran, still receiving treatment for colon cancer and homeless for the last year and a half, explained why he has no interest in staying at a shelter.

"I just don't like to be in a crowded place. I'd rather be, you know, by myself," said Jefferson.

Jefferson was outside HOPE Connections headquarters in the 2300 block of Levy Street in Shreveport a full day before it re-opens and sleeping in his broken down SUV.

Ashley Bradford, 32, also gathered outside HOPE Connections on Sunday.

Bradford says she's been homeless more than half her life and she too is estranged from her family.

"Your family is your worst enemies," said Bradford.

She said she also suffers from epilepsy and depression and just hopes her luck will eventually change.

"Most of my days I have my ups and downs but with God's strength and help I keep on moving and pushing through," said Bradford.

The homeless issue is expected to be front and center at the Caddo Commission's Long Range Planning Committee meeting on noon on Monday, October 16 at Government Plaza in downtown Shreveport.

Copyright 2017 KSLA. All rights reserved.