Ben Broussard, Chief of External Affairs for Catholic Charities of Acadiana, joins us to discuss the nonprofit’s mission. Since 1973, Catholic Charities has worked to provide essential services to the most vulnerable people in our community who experience hunger, homelessness and poverty. A separate nonprofit organization from the Diocese of Lafayette, many services are 100% donor funded and others are buttrosed through grants from government and private organizations.
The organization has traditionally taken care of our most vulnerable neighbors through outreach efforts for disaster response, as well St. Joseph Diner, St. Joseph Shelter for Men, St. Michael Center for Veterans, the Stella Maris Center, and the Monsignor Sigur Center.
In the past several years, other critical services have been added to Catholic Charities’ umbrella of services including The Emily House in 2018, which offers an emergency shelter for homeless women and children. They have also added new responsibilities by taking over the Immigration Services and Deaf Action Center formerly run by the Diocese of Lafayette, as well as assuming management of FoodNet Food Bank and Rebuilding Together Acadiana. In 2019, Catholic Charities also became entrepreneurs by taking over ownership of Crossroads Catholic Bookstore, which is now known as Crossroads Collective.
“I feel that all of us are called to do something for our neighbor who stands to suffer. It is easy to think about it during the cold weather or a disaster, but in someone’s every day disaster or situational crisis, they also need help.”
The recent extreme cold snap in January 2024 has presented a challenge to the organization as our community’s homeless population has risen dramatically. And then, the ancient heating system in St. Joseph’s Diner broke on January 15, 2024, and needs to be entirely replaced.
Day in and day out, Catholic Charities is here for our community. It’s time for more of us to be there for them.
A quick background on Ben Broussard: for eleven years, Ben previously worked as Chief of External Affairs for the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association with the late Don Briggs. His heart was always in sync with service to others, so when Kim Boudreaux, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, approached him to serve with her organization, Ben’s temperament and ability to mobilize the troops when needed was a ready fit.
Ben is an articulate and passionate spokesperson for Catholic Charities and is inclusive in his call for help in whatever way concerned community members feel they can step up. You do not need to be Catholic to be involved, nor do you need to be an active church-going member of any congregation.
“The entirety of the 70501 zip code in Lafayette is a food desert. We have very vulnerable clientele come in and St. Joseph Diner is one thing they can bet on, that they can get a meal there. It is very much a very volunteer-centric operation with many volunteers coming in throughout the day.”
On any given day, Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph Diner feeds 700 to 800 meals…..breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days per week. On any given night, Catholic Charities also houses about 160 people, including men, women, children and Veterans. With the recent deep freeze, Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit gave the OK for more people to be sheltered than would normally be allowed by law to accommodate the dire need for a warm space.
Catholic Charities’ permanent housing program has traditionally been an extremely successful tool to help our homeless population get back on their feet in a stable environment while dealing with the underlying causes that led to homelessness, such as addictions, mental illness, physical disabilities, etc. Before COVID, Lafayette’s occupancy rates were at about 80% and Catholic Charities could work with landlords to negotiate affordable rates for their clients. Now, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Ida, people have come to Lafayette and ended up staying permanently, filling up the affordable housing stock which would usually be available. There are literally no housing options and folks have ended up in shelters or on the streets. Ben says, “The longer you are homeless, the barriers just continue to get higher.” And to clarify a misconception, Ben says, “Many people assume that our homeless population consists overwhelming of people from other towns. This is not true. 85 to 90% of our homeless are from right here in Lafayette and Acadiana.”
Catholic Charities received a grant from the Urban Land Institute to facilitate a four part series of forums for a community -wide discussion on how to best to collaberate and find long-term solutions for our region’s homeless population. Future meetings will be held March 21 and May 5.
For a comprehensive look at how you can help by contributing your time, money, or talents, please visit https://catholiccharitiesacadiana.org/.
We thank Ben Broussard, Executive Director Kim Boudreaux, and the entire team at Catholic Charities of Acadiana for their tireless and effective efforts to provide life-sustaining services to our most vulnerable neighbors.