BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - People may overlook an old house on Plank Road. It’s surrounded by a white picket fence, draped with America’s colors. Most drivers probably have no idea it’s an oasis for a few veterans.
“Bondages was one of the biggest things I brought with me,” sayidJoey Lacroix. “For years, on and off, I would drink and that’s initially what brought life turmoil for me.”
Lacroix became a U.S. Marine in 1996, not long after graduating from high school. Lacroix says he knew he would join the military because his father was also Marine. After a tour serving the country, he needed help getting back on his feet.
“Sometimes you have to allow love to be loved,” he said.
A non-profit organization giving out the love and free place to stay is Ode to Our Warriors.
“When you start working with these men, you realize that you have to just meet them where they are,” Charles Landreneau said.
The group was formed after Landreneau and his wife, Karen, answered a call to service eight years ago. The Landreneaus started a home for boys in conjunction with Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge. After learning about the homeless veteran population, Landreneau says they formed the non-profit in May of 2018.
Right now, eight veterans stay on the property, called Fort Baker Veterans Village. The plan is to get veterans on track to help them find their place outside of the military.
Daniel Mayers, an Army veteran, served one tour in Afghanistan.
"It took me ending up homeless and being half starved for me to finally go and talk to someone,” Mayers said.
There isn’t a concrete timeline for the program, Landreneau says. Veterans can stay as long as they need. Mayers used the service for about five months.
“Living in the home just kind of helped me relax and find peace within myself,” he said.
Mayers says it’s still a process adapting to civilian life, but he’s on track. He’s currently employed at BlueCross BlueShield.
Now, the mission of Ode to Our Warriors is expanding with 16 acres of space. The open field will soon hold new homes for veterans so the organization can help even more military members transition to a normal life. The challenge is raising money to fund it. Right now, every bill is paid by donations.
Landreneau says it costs around $40,000 per year for housing, transportation, and food. The goal is to raise $1.5 to 2 million to build the homestead.
All it takes is a little hand up from the community to pass along a nudge of encouragement to the veterans.
“Every time we have a need, it seems the need is met. We’re just going to continue pushing forward,” Landreneau said.
The group offers financial management courses to participants of the program. The facility is drug and alcohol free.