LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Bishop Stanley Sinegal has been in the ministry for 25 years.
He says within the last eight to ten years he has seen an increase in the number of homeless people and that as a result has had to take some extreme measures to protect his church property and the congregation.
“I just don’t see anything being done for the homeless population on this side of town and I got to admit it, it gets frustrating sometimes because we’re trying to be a blessing to the community,” he said.
Sinegal said he has been experiencing a lot of vandalism and littering on and near the church property.
“As a ministry, we try to do as much as you can as far as feeding them and clothing them, but they start to get out of hand,” he said.
Sinegal says an abandoned building the church owns, that he planned to use for humanitarian work for the community, has been covered with clothing and trash and broken into.
“The homeless people have set up a tent city, and as we know, as the weeks went by, they started to increase, and that was definitely a problem there because then with that came litter and also a lot of commotion,” he said.
Since Monday law enforcement has been in the area having individuals remove their tents. Where those people have relocated to is unknown at this time.
He says his Sunday and Wednesday church services has been affected.
“We have people coming in with children so it’s sort of intimidating,” Singal said. “So unfortunately, we’ve had to ask them to move, and it hasn’t always been an easy situation.”
Elder Ivory Sam said his church has “a heart for the community.”
“We are not saying that these people are bad, but we have seen that there is a need,” Sam said. “There are mental issues, there is drug addiction, homelessness, even a place to use the restroom, and this has just grown into something that’s really big,”
“As human beings, they’ve got to go somewhere to relieve their bodily function but of course because we don’t have that they’re doing it wherever they can find a space,” Singal said. “The back of the church, in the bushes, what have you, so that is a problem.”
The bishop said they had to have a standing No Trespassing order with the Lafayette Police Department to decrease vandalism, but the signs get taken down and the church has to pay to replace them.
“There have been some (trespassers), and a few of them that have confronted me to the point of violence, and I was informed by the Lafayette Police Department not to confront them, just to contact them which we’ve been doing,” he said. “We would like some assistance or cooperation from the community from the administration to help us with the homeless people in this particular area.”
Sgt. Robin Green said LPD teamed up with LoveWell to help those in need of shelter, food, clothes or medical attention.
“They have given us the green light if we come across someone that needs a place,” Green said. “They can’t stay wherever it is. A business calls because they don’t want them at their location anymore, well, LoveWell have extended this invitation that ok, so they can’t stand at this particular place of business or whatever the location maybe we can go and take them to LoveWell, and they will assist the homeless with anything they may need.”
Green called the effort “a great gift to law enforcement.”
“So many times we do come across them and we have nowhere to bring them,” she said. “The shelters are full, or their shelters are not open at the time, and so we’re able to go and drop them there.
“Other times our dealing with them is because someone has called and a crime has been committed or if it might be a certain area of town where it might be a high crime area and it just so happens a homeless population may be a bit large and so to prevent any further criminal activity in that area either homeowners or businesses might call and request an additional patrol for certain times of the evening or the day and our officers in between calls they will patrol those areas.”