Filling in the GAPS

At the recent grand opening at Gateway and Access to Permanent Solutions (GAPS), participants oohed and aahed over the interior and exterior of an old home in Shreveport's Highland area.

[Photo 1: Exterior view of house]
This stately Shreveport home will serve as permanent housing for the disabled.
[Photo 2: Interior view of house]
The renovation maintained the historic character of the home.
[Photo 3: Interior view of house]
A light, open feel greets visitors and residents.
[Photo 4: Tour of the home]
VOA House Manager Sheba Anderson conducts a tour.

Its original owner was likely a well-to-do family in the early 20th century that needed access to the busy activities in nearby growing downtown Shreveport; however, over the last two decades, it has served clients of the Volunteers of America of North Louisiana as a day shelter for persons with mental illness.

Activities at the Gateway program increase the skill levels of the participants to such a level that many of them are now employed and making their way back to full participation in society.

When one need is met, typically another comes to the forefront.This happened in 2004 when HOPE for the Homeless, the continuum of care organization in Northwest Louisiana, identified the need for permanent supportive housing for persons with disabilities as its top priority for funding proposals.

Volunteers of America stepped up, knowing that they already had a wonderful place: The house used for the Gateway program. In December, 2004, VOA was awarded $747,000 through HUD's Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance program to provide permanent housing to the mentally ill.

Now the real work was ahead. The house had deteriorated over the years and needed substantial work. They also needed a second residence and conveniently had some vacant apartments right next door. The City of Shreveport stepped up to match the $300,000 in rehabilitation funds awarded by HUD. The Office of Mental Health also committed to match the dollars given by HUD. They were on their way.

Just as the project was taking off, work was halted by a major disaster: Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana came to a stop on August 29, 2005. Volunteers of America saw a gap right in front of them: Many mentally ill persons from New Orleans without a place to stay.

And so, GAPS, not yet ready to open for its intended purpose, filled an unanticipated gap and housed many sick and desperate people for several months. As the crisis waned, staff and community providers stepped up the pace to provide a gateway to housing and services.

This gap was filled when the ribbon was cut at GAPS and a true gap was filled permanently.

Content Archived: July 18, 2011