Baton Rouge, La—On July 28, 2015, Bishop Robert W. Muench officially launched the expansion of a transitional housing program that helps homeless men successfully re-enter their communities after being released from prison. Bishop Robert Muench blessed 8 new apartments at Catholic Charities Joseph Homes, doubling the capacity of the program to now house 15 men. Bishop Muench was joined by Mayor Kip Holden, Councilperson Tara Wicker, and others who contributed to the expansion in a blessing/ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new apartments were funded by the City of Baton Rouge Office of Community Development and The Huey & Angelina Wilson Foundation. Some of the furniture was donated by the LSU Phi Mu Sorority.
In 1990, the Floyd W. Womack Jr. family donated original 7 efficiency Joseph Homes apartments, located in the Mid-City area, to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, naming it after then Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott.
“Over the past 25 years, 750 men have called Joseph Homes ‘home.’” said David Aguillard, CCDBR Executive Director. “This program benefits the men, their families and our society as a whole because unstable housing and a weak support network is the number one reason men return to old habits.”
“Thanks to the help of volunteers and the dedication of staff like Linda Fjeldsjo, Joseph Homes coordinator, and case worker Laverne Klier, our graduates are five times less likely than other ex-offenders in our state to return to prison. 85% of our graduates leave with a job, and 70% establish a household.” said Aguillard.
While living at Joseph Homes, the men receive counseling, find work, establish savings accounts, and support each other as they to become active citizens contributing to the fabric of our communities.”
Louisiana incarceration rate is 114% higher than the national average, and the state’s prisons are filled with more people per capita than any other place in the world. Each year, 15,000 offenders are released from prison.
Joseph Homes coordinator Linda Fjeldsjo said most return to the same communities where they committed their offenses, usually with a $20 debit card issued by the prison as their only resource. “Can you imagine starting your life all over again with $20? It’s no wonder half return to prison within 5 years.” said Fjeldsjo.
The men enrolled in the program pay a $75 program fee for 1st month giving them time to find work, and then they pay $75 per week thereafter. The average stay varies between 3 to 5 months. When a resident moves into his own apartment, Joseph Homes will help pay either part or the entire amount of the first month’s rent.
Program participants are expected to remain drug-free, pass random drug screens and participate in a 12-step program. They must also maintain stable employment and attend a weekly support group meeting.
“The group meetings are as important as anything, and the guys really look forward to them,” said Fjeldsjo. “Not only do they enjoy the fellowship of our committed volunteers sharing a great meal (some donated by Drusilla Seafood), but they also hear from past residents about how they overcame barriers to help them succeed.”
Leafing through a file of 300 or so applications she’s received in the last couple of months, Fjeldsjo says the additional apartments will help 8 more men turn their lives around, but said even more help is needed.
“Volunteers and donations are really the lifeblood of this program. Many of the men can’t read or balance a check book. Most need help with banking, budgeting and job search. Donations to set up a new apartment are always welcome,” said Fjeldsjo. “All however could use a friend, someone to listen to their story with a compassionate ear. Just knowing someone cares enough to spend an hour a week means the world to them.”
Because of unanticipated costs, Catholic Charities is also seeking donations to cover the budget shortfall. To volunteer or to make a donation, call Catholic Charities at 225-336-8700 or contact Linda Fjeldsjo for more information about the program.
Read more about the new construction in The Catholic Commentator.
Joseph Homes Facts
- Joseph Homes, a program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, is a transitional housing program that helps homeless men successfully re-enter their communities after being released from prison. The program was named after then Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott and was the first of its kind in the region.
- In 1991, the Floyd W. Womack Jr. family donated the original 7 apartments to Catholic Charities. Since then, 750 men have called them “home.” The new construction brings the total capacity to 15.
- Joseph Homes graduates are five times less likely than other ex-offenders in Louisiana to return to prison. 85% leave with a job, and 70% establish a household.
- While living at Joseph Homes, the men receive counseling, find work, establish savings accounts, and support each other as they work to become active citizens, contributing to the fabric of our communities.
- Program participants are expected to remain drug-free, pass random drug screens and attend 12-step meetings. They must also maintain stable employment and attend a weekly support group meeting.
- The men enrolled in the program pay a $75 program fee for 1st month giving them time to find work, and then pay $75 per week thereafter. The average stay varies between 3 to 5 months. When a resident moves into his own apartment, Joseph Homes will help pay part or all of his first month’s rent.
- Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world (847 per 100,000 residents of Louisiana)-- 114% higher than the national average
- Approximately 15,000 state offenders are released each year from Louisiana prisons into the communities where they were living when they committed their crimes, with little or no resources. 5,500 are released in Baton Rouge . Throughout the state, 50% will return to prison within 5 years.