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Individuals wait outside the Salvation Army's Men's Shelter on 6th Street for a meal to be served Saturday, April 4, 2020 in Lafayette, LA.

More data shows Louisiana could face a significant housing crisis due to COVID-19 once the federal moratorium is lifted on July 25.

The number of homeless families in Acadiana and statewide has continued to rise, but the state could be dealing with 130,000 households being homeless when the federal ban on evictions is lifted July 25, according to a report from the Center for Planning Excellence.

With a high number of residents working in the restaurant, tourism and hospitality industries, the state ranks third for having a high risk of evictions.

“We need to take swift, targeted action to keep people in their homes now,” said Camille Manning-Broom, president and executive director of CPEX, which drives urban, rural and regional planning in Louisiana. “As well as develop longer-term strategies to address the issues that have made such a large group of Louisiana residents vulnerable to homelessness in the first place.”

Many households in Acadiana are already considered homeless but are in sheltered housing. Data from the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness shows the number of homeless residents in Acadiana has swelled last month to 789, a sharp rise from the 421 in January, in its eight-parish region.

About 248 households are currently living in hotels in Acadiana. That includes 55 parents and 79 children, data shows.

This, ARCH director Leigh Rachal noted during a webinar last week, is with a federal moratorium still in place. The agency is still getting daily requests for housing assistance after getting as many as 20 a day in April and May, she said.

“The number of people who experiencing homelessness has skyrocketed higher than it’s been since we’ve tracking this since 2007,” Rachal said. “The other startling piece of this is we have family homelessness on the rise of almost 200% of what we were experiencing two months ago. We are very concerned about the number of families with children who if the hotel funding ended today would be out on the street.”

Statewide there are 1.6 million households, with about 600,000 of those being renter households, CPEX data shows. Up to 281,000 are considered rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Sections of Lafayette have 10-15% of households hit that threshold, but there are sections of Acadia, Evangeline and St. Landry that have more than 20%.

The Acadiana region lost 21,800 jobs in April and had an unemployment rate of 11.9% in May.

ARCH raised $60,000 to help house people and families in 18 hotels in the region starting in April and continued until the federal government began covering their expenses, Rachal said. The number of hotels housing people is down to 12 now.

“There’s a few out in the rural areas that we are still directly paying,” Rachal said. “Our goal is to help people find stable housing they can move into. Long term, that’s a very unpleasant living environment, and it’s also very expensive. They can’t cook. Trying to figure out how to keep your kids entertained is difficult.”

Funding to address the issue will have to come from the federal government, Rachal said. Closing the rent gap nationwide will cost up to $31.8 billion over six months, CPEX data shows, while Louisiana will need up to $432.2 million.

ARCH and other agencies that address homelessness, including Catholic Charities of Acadiana and SMILE Community Action Agency, will continue to raise money to help people stay in their homes, but it won’t be enough.

The issue has not gotten enough awareness in recent weeks, Rachal said.

“You can’t fundraise yourself out of a housing crisis,” she said. “I think (the issue) is kind of hidden right now. I think we are able to go about our daily lives and aren’t realizing the tsunami wave that’s building in the background. It’s kind of like the calm before the storm. If you don’t know a hurricane is coming, you don’t do the preparations for it. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

Acadiana Business Today: Thousands of Louisianans could be homeless when moratorium is lifted; Acadiana numbers already swelled; Waitr hires 225 workers in Louisiana, nixes plans to outsource in Mexico


Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.