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Northshore group preparing for surge in homeless children this summer

Family Promise of St. Tammany is trying to expand services and raise money for a new building.

SLIDELL, La. — As we continue to rebound from the pandemic there are concerns about a looming housing crisis when the federal ban on evictions is set to expire in roughly five weeks. 

On the North Shore, one group dedicated to helping homeless children and their families is seeing a surge of people.  St. Tammany Parish may be affluent, but it’s not immune to homelessness. 

“Each year in St. Tammany Parish the public schools identify over 1,000 children that are homeless.  This year we’re in unprecedented times.  We don’t know what that number is going to be,” said David Horchar, executive director of Family Promise of St. Tammany. 

Three years ago, Heather Levin was in a tough spot.  She and her four kids needed a place to stay. 

 “I was homeless.  I had a problem with a landlord,” Heather Levin said.  “I was literally living paycheck to paycheck and I was also struggling to keep a job because my baby was so young and I didn’t have childcare.” 

Family Promise of St. Tammany helped her find housing and a car.  She’s now working for the non-profit.  She’s assisting what seems to be a growing number of families in need. 

“It’s amazing to be able to give back, and walk these families through what they go through,” Levin said.    

“They’re working people.  They’re in the service industry.  There’s just not enough money to go around to afford the rent here on the Northshore,” David Horchcar said.    

Horchar says every night during the pandemic there’s been at least one family under their care.

“The families are transported to a local church each night to sleep there, five families at a time.  They’re brought back every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Horchar said. 

When COVID-19 shut down churches, those families slept at the organization’s office in Slidell and some are still using the available beds there.  When the federal moratorium on evictions is lifted, Horchar believes there’s going to be a housing crisis.

“Many people are months and months behind, so they will be on the street,” Horchar predicted. 

In anticipation of those evictions, Horchar and his small team are trying to expand services and raise money for a new building.  The new day center would be part of the Safe Haven campus in St. Tammany Parish.  Family Promise of St. Tammany has already helped several families move into new spaces.  With the assistance of Habitat for Humanity, Heather Levin will soon have a home of her own. 

“I never lose sight of where I was at and where I’m going,” Levin said. 

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