BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The homeless in the Baton Rouge area have a new place to rest their heads on a cold night. The St. Vincent de Paul society announced the opening of a new men's shelter and plans to build one for families.
"We came up with this vision and the vision was let's finish that second floor and let's fill this community need," said Michael Acaldo, president of St. Vincent de Paul.
The cut of a ribbon marked the official opening of the St. Vincent de Paul society's new men's shelter. Acaldo said the second floor is built to fit 62 beds, which is double the number it once held.
"Each man gets a locker, they get a bed and place to call home on a cold winter night," Acaldo added.
They also get a hot meal. In its 30 years of existence, the need has grown. This year, volunteers served an estimated 240,000 meals.
"This dining room is our community safety net," explained Cary Kearny, committee chair of Vision 150. "It ensures that no one has to be hungry."
The shelter has come a long way.
"Beds, there were no beds," said Marvin Ourso, a longtime volunteer at the shelter. "We didn't have any of that."
Ourso has been volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul for 70 years. He recalls a time when just having providing a roof for those in need was an accomplishment.
"No matter what you do here, your dedication, love and prayers and your actions and resources make all the difference in the world," said Kearny.
Times have changed, the need has grown and the shelter is expanding to meet that demand. Acaldo said helping others and being a part of their success story is the true reward.
"They're excited. They can't believe how nice it is. You can tell it's well lit. We believe having a well lit facility. You're not depressed. Today is a day full of life and opportunity," Acaldo added.
Bunkbeds have been ordered for the new shelter.
The former men's shelter is being converted into a facility that will one day house homeless families.