Shelter remains in shambles for months after storm in Louisiana |



LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – Oasis A Safe Haven Shelter – the only Lake Charles-based non-profit shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse – remains closed and stripped down to stud farms, almost nine months after the destruction of Hurricane Laura landed. Victims must either stay in shelters outside the area or return to their attacker.

Kathy Williams, executive director of Oasis, said on Tuesday it is not known when the shelter – which can accommodate up to 33 people – will reopen. The $ 145,313 paid by the insurance company is far less than the nearly $ 800,000 in damages suffered by the establishment during Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

The closest domestic violence shelters are in Jennings, nearly 40 miles to the east, or DeRidder, nearly 50 miles to the north, Williams said. There are 15 domestic violence shelters throughout Louisiana.

Oasis is the only local shelter for victims of domestic violence in the parishes of Calcasieu, Allen and Cameron, and the only shelter for victims of sexual violence in the Five Parish area of ​​southwest Louisiana, which also includes the parishes of Beauregard and Jeff Davis.

“I can promise you that we would be full if we were open,” Williams, a domestic violence survivor, said of the shelter. “I know what it’s like to be beaten and not have a place to go, so I know what these (victims) are going through, staying home, being abused.

The Oasis educational building, which helps organize after-school and summer playgroups for children, is also emptied, Williams said.

ROAD BLOCKS

Purchasing a 12-passenger van to transport the victims to shelters out of town was impossible, Williams said. The nonprofit received a grant of $ 25,000 and set aside money to buy a pickup truck.

“We went to dealerships all over the place, and they couldn’t find a van to give us an estimate,” she said. “Everything is stopped from COVID-19, and it’s just flowing. It’s crazy.”

Putting the victims on a Greyhound bus to a nearby shelter is also not an option, Williams said. Bus service does not stop at Lake Charles due to damage from Hurricane Laura.

“It’s really tough to go right now,” said Williams. “The hotels are full too, or they cost $ 250 a night.”

The housing shortage after the hurricane made it difficult for victims to come out of an abusive situation, even if they can afford to move, Williams said.

“If you’ve got the money and want to find a place to rent, good luck,” she says. “It’s just one thing after another.”

Oasis has received more calls from victims seeking protection orders, Williams said. The facility did not receive many calls from victims asking about the shelter. However, she said, many residents know the shelter is not open.

“Word is pretty much out,” she said.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said domestic violence cases were down 15% from the same period last year, with sex crimes down 22%. The sheriff said he did not know why those numbers had dropped, a possible reason being that the parish of Calcasieu has had fewer residents since Hurricane Laura.

“I don’t know if it’s because (these crimes) are going unreported,” Mancuso added. “I hope that’s not the case. Hopefully people see the signs of abuse early and come out of these relationships. “

The shelter continues to receive numerous calls to welcome the homeless, Williams said. The establishment can only accommodate victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“There is a huge homeless population in Lake Charles,” she says.

INSURANCE DISPUTE

A contention issue between Oasis and the insurance company concerns the sub-floor of the shelter, Williams said. The main shelter is on pillars, but Williams said the water impacted the sub-floor and from the roof during the hurricanes.

“When (the contractors) tore the tiles and the wood floor, the subfloor was showing 60% humidity,” Williams said. “The insurance company wanted them to cut up pieces of the subfloor, instead of replacing everything.”

The freezing temperatures in February caused 25 pipes to burst and brought 1 to 2 inches of water throughout the shelter, Williams said.

“If the sub-floor weren’t ruined before, it was then,” she says. “We were lucky to be at the poles when those pipes broke.”

The insurance money Oasis received helped pay for new roofs throughout the facility, including shelters, administrative and school buildings. A deposit of $ 50,000 was paid for the mitigation work, which included dewatering and gutting all buildings.

“This is where we are at,” said Williams.

Oasis signed a contract with their attorney to advance the insurance claim, Williams said. She said the contractor had indicated that the insurance company appeared to be on the verge of reaching a settlement.

“Something will happen if they don’t settle in soon,” she said.

MONITORED SERVICES

Other than the forced shutdown of the shelter, Hurricanes Laura and Delta did not interrupt any of the services provided by Oasis, Williams said. All 11 full-time employees suffered significant housing damage from the storms, while continuing to help victims across the region.

One of the centre’s outreach advocates received a cell phone weeks before Hurricane Laura, with the rest of the staff transferring their phones to it when they were evacuated. The sexual assault hotline was transferred to a staff member’s personal phone.

“We were still able to receive all of our calls,” she said. “Our advocates have never missed a beat. They kept in touch with all their clients in all the parishes.

Outreach advocates help victims in a variety of ways, including support groups and one-on-one meetings to help recover from trauma. Because some victims of domestic violence continue to live with their abuser, advocates also come up with a plan for Victms to live as safely as possible until they can leave the situation, Williams said.

The sexual assault group includes a volunteer coordinator, a community educator, and an outreach coordinator. One is available 24 hours a day for cases where a rape victim is taken to hospital. After the victims are discharged from the hospital, an outreach advocate follows up to provide additional support. Oasis staff also help with advocacy, community education, and a 24-hour crisis hotline.

Williams said hurricanes, COVID-19, the February frost and flooding last week are factors that could lead to increased abuse.

“It’s probably worse right now because you’re home, you don’t have a place to go, and the abusive person is there with you,” she said. “Any little thing can trigger a mood.”

The Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault recently presented Oasis with the Baton Rouge Sexual Assault Program of the Year award.



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