BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge shelter is all set to expand. City leaders and St. Vincent De Paul staff broke ground on a new wing of the Bishop Ott Sweet Dreams shelter Monday, but they need the public's help to make the project a reality.
As dirt was tossed Monday at the groundbreaking, St. Vincent DePaul forged ahead with the new addition to the shelter.
"It's a great project and it's another part of who we are. And that I think helps define us as citizens of Baton Rouge and members of the church," said Bishop Robert Muench.
Currently, the women and children's facility has 36 beds, but president and CEO of the facility, Michael Acaldo, said the need is much greater. The plan is to expand the 8,000 square foot building to roughly 18,000 square feet while also throwing in a few extra bells and whistles.
"Our rooms are going to be a step up from what we've done in the past. We're going to have bunk beds in there but it's going to be like a mini hotel stay," said Acaldo. He believes the new addition will double the shelter's capacity and increase its impact on the homeless community in Baton Rouge.
"This will give us 72 beds, 16 cribs so it will really position us to really be able to respond better," Acaldo added.
Shaleta Jones has been living at the shelter since the August flood. She says the experience has been humbling and one that she won't soon forget.
"No matter how down you get, you can get up," Jones said. "It just lifted my spirits and it shows you that you're not alone and everybody's story is different, but it teaches you how to build back up your self-esteem."
Shelter leaders have been raising money to fund the project for about two years, but find themselves about $119,000 short of their goal.
The August flood put a damper on the process, driving up costs and swamping their budget. Acaldo said it is important to take a leap of faith and trust things will work out.
"We know people are going to see the need and respond and we're hoping to have that money raised when the building is finished so that we can pay for the construction. So sometimes you just got to take a leap of faith," Acaldo said.
Anyone interested in helping the shelter with its expansion project can call the facility at 225-383-7837 or click here.