New fencing puts organization’s efforts to serve Baton Rouge homeless community in jeopardy

Non-profit group concerned fence will prevent them from helping homeless

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The non-profit organization, It Takes a Village, has been serving hot meals under the Trevor Sims Bridge near St. Vincent de Paul and North Boulevard for nearly four years.

In February of 2018, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council leased the property under the bridge to Dyke Nelson Architecture for three years to store construction equipment. Fencing on one side of the bridge went up almost immediately, but across from St. Vincent de Paul, it was left open, leaving the organization free to continue serving its meals.

Now, fence posts have gone up around the remainder of the area and will soon fence off the area needed for volunteers to serve meals to those in need.

"Without access to the area under the Trevor Sims Bridge, I really don’t know what we’re going to do or where we’re going to go to provide those services,” said Ed Doyle, a volunteer with It Takes a Village.

In February of 2018, the EBR Metro Council leased the property under the bridge to Dyke Nelson Architecture for three years to store construction equipment.
In February of 2018, the EBR Metro Council leased the property under the bridge to Dyke Nelson Architecture for three years to store construction equipment. (Source: WAFB)

According to a release from the mayor’s office, the city has engaged in numerous homelessness prevention providers since the mayor took office to find solutions to the homeless problem in Baton Rouge. It has also worked to house anyone living under that bridge.

Doyle says despite these actions, he feels blindsided by the construction of this new fence.

"We’re preparing to celebrate our fourth anniversary this Sunday; bounce houses and barbers and service providers and a huge celebration of dignity and love to the people that we serve, and the fence is going to prohibit that if it goes up,” he said.

He says they don’t have a backup plan should they be pushed out of the location.

The non-profit is concerned about the new fence restricting their access to the area under the bridge, as well as homeless' ability to access the space.
The non-profit is concerned about the new fence restricting their access to the area under the bridge, as well as homeless' ability to access the space. (Source: WAFB)

“We need the building of the fence to stop right now until further conversations can take place and a plan can be developed to continue to provide services to the people that we serve,” he said.

Despite the uncertainty, Doyle says one thing is for sure: “We’re not going to stop,” he said. “We’re not going to stop providing services.”

Representatives with It Takes a Village have reached out to the city to see if the construction can be halted until their celebration can be completed. They had not heard back as of Tuesday, Sept. 10.

WAFB also reached out to Dyke Nelson Architecture about the fence construction; no response was given.

The non-profit organization, It Takes a Village, has been serving hot meals to the homeless under Trevor Sims Bridge for nearly four years.
The non-profit organization, It Takes a Village, has been serving hot meals to the homeless under Trevor Sims Bridge for nearly four years. (Source: WAFB)

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