BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish continues to struggle to find solutions to the problem of homelessness.

But now that many are dealing with increases in housing costs, the situation is becoming even more difficult.

“Homelessness is not good for the city of Baton Rouge, and it’s important that we think of it as a policy issue that needs to be addressed, and not just something that isn’t pushed to the next neighborhood over from ours so that we don’t have to see it,” said Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless Former Director, Randy Nichols.

He added that vulnerable individuals are more likely to be without housing. This includes people who experience trauma, mental illness and poverty.

“Our poverty rates are quite high, our incarcerations are high, there is immense need in our community. Thinking about that and planning for that is just a chronic part of daily life here,” said Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless Executive Director Weston Schilds.

Nichols said more people can be found camping on public sidewalks in Baton Rouge.

“They’re sleeping in these places, not meant for human habitation. They’re sleeping in the doorways of businesses. That’s not good for the business, but it’s not good for the homeless person,” Nichols said.

Just last month, the EBR Metro Council banned camping, a decision that will significantly impact the homeless population.

“I believe the spirit of the ordinance was to drive individuals to seek services, to be more engaged, and to think a little bit more there. Now, on the other hand, you do have decision making that is impacted by some individuals mental health, substance abuse and joined together, makes that decision making really hard and you’re not always thinking very clearly,” said Schilds. “So the options can go down a bad road. We do not want individuals to perhaps encounter those fines and then they have no way to show up for the court date and then go to jail, further complicating the road to housing.”

Nichols said believes the solution to this issue can be reached via affordable and diverse housing options.

“Like O’Brien House that provided housing for people with substance abuse issues and both transitional for a short period of time while people got their lives together or for a longer period of time and their permanent supportive housing,” he said.

According to Nichols, with the right policy and leadership, the parish can start to tackle homelessness in the parish.

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