Saturday, July 13, 2024

Funds for homeless shelter, housing for ex-incarcerated among Landry’s nonprofit budget vetoes

by BIZ Magazine

BY: JULIE O’DONOGHUE – Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry delivers his address to state lawmakers on opening day of the regular legislative session, Monday, March 11, 2024, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry delivers his address to state lawmakers on opening day of the regular legislative session, Monday, March 11, 2024, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. (John Ballance/The Advocate, Pool)

Gov. Jeff Landry’s line-item vetoes from the state budget include money for a homeless shelter in Lafayette and housing for the formerly incarcerated in New Orleans.

In total, the governor took $4.5 million from nonprofits out of the $48 billion budget Louisiana lawmakers approved earlier this month. In one of his veto letters, Landry implied nongovernmental organizations should be more closely vetted before they receive state funds.

“Prior to next legislative session, we plan to work with the legislature to develop criteria for what type of NGO requests represent the best use of our scarce state resources,” the governor wrote.

One of the single largest cuts Landry made was for $1 million to Catholic Charities of Acadiana for its emergency homeless shelter operations in Lafayette. The facilities serve the surrounding eight parishes, and the funding would have been provided for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Landry, who is Catholic and lives in Lafayette Parish, did not explain why he removed the funding.

“The vetoed shelter appropriations are a significant setback to our pro-life efforts to care for our vulnerable neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Kim Boudreaux, head of Catholic Charities of Acadiana, said in a written statement Tuesday. “Our shelter serves as a critical lifeline for 87 individuals each night who have nowhere else to turn. We face an uncertain future for those who seek shelter with us as a last resort.”

Last year, the organization provided shelter to 410 people and was able to help 135 people find permanent housing, said Ben Broussard, head of external affairs for the group. More than 80% of the people staying in the shelter came from the Acadiana region.

Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, said he was disappointed to hear about the shelter’s cut, especially because the organization helps military veterans struggling with mental health challenges. If the shelter has to shut down or cut back on operations, it could make homelessness worse.

“The problem doesn’t just go away,” Boudreaux said in an interview Tuesday.

Landry also removed $250,000 from a housing project for the formerly incarcerated in New Orleans. The money was supposed to go to The First 72+, a nonprofit organization that provides support to people recently released from prison, including providing them with transitional residences.

The governor’s other major reductions include a $500,000 cut to Teach for America, which provides educators to high-needs schools, and pulling $1 million from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, which provides grants to local artists and educators.

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