The Catholic Commentator

St. Vincent de Paul Society is on the move again.

Weeks before dedicating a 42-bed expansion of the Bishop Ott Sweet Dreams Shelter for Women and Children, executive director Michael Acaldo announced that St. Vincent de Paul received a $1 million grant from the city of Baton Rouge which will pave the way for a 36-bed expansion of the Bishop Ott Center and day room.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced the grant Jan. 29.

“We are so excited about being a part of the mayor’s vision of responding to the needs of the homeless, especially mothers and children who have no place to turn for help,” Acaldo said. “We believe this new facility will position our community for success in responding to the needs of the homeless during cold winter nights, as well as other natural disasters.”

The planned 4,000-square foot building will be located on the east side of the current shelter, replacing what is currently a parking lot. He said the space will also have the capacity to add 36 additional beds during emergency weather conditions, such as cold weather and hurricanes.

The beds would be placed in a dormitory-style setting that will have adequate bathroom and laundry facilities for the expanded populations in non-emergency situations.

“These services are much needed and will make a tremendous difference in the lives of the homeless in our community,” Acaldo said. “This is a great partnership that will pay heavy dividends in the lives of the homeless.

The grant is coming from disaster recovery funds.

“By expanding capacity at St. Vincent de Paul’s main campus with a new construction disaster shelter, we will be able to provide our homeless population with a safe harbor during disaster events,” Office of Community Development executive director Pat Forbes said. “The state is committed to sheltering our most vulnerable residents during emergency conditions and is pleased that East Baton Rouge Parish is using $1 million Community Development Grant funding for this important project.”

Broome and Acaldo agreed that the unusually recent, harsh winter weather has reinforced the need for additional emergency shelters in the Baton Rouge area. Acaldo noted that on Jan. 26 the Ott Center was at capacity and has been on several occasions recently.

Additionally, the men’s shelter has also been full several nights during the cold snaps that have brought snow and ice to the area.

“We are so pleased that St. Vincent de Paul, a tremendous partner and resource for our region, is the recipient of these funds, and we look forward to the grand opening of the expanded shelter next year,” Broome said.

Construction is scheduled to start in June.