St. Mary Community Action Agency Meets Housing and Other Critical Needs in South Louisiana

October 29, 2019

For more than half a century, the St. Mary Community Action Agency has been making a difference through its wide range of vital community development programs in south Louisiana.

The mission of the nonprofit organization is to alleviate poverty for low-income citizens through projects and services that strengthen, renew and guide families and individuals into self-sufficiency.

The agency administers about two dozen programs and initiatives throughout its geographic target area of St. Mary and Vermilion parishes, offering services such as transportation assistance, early-childhood education and workforce training. The agency has also been a longstanding and effective partner with the Louisiana Housing Corporation in several innovative affordable housing initiatives.

Meeting Community Needs

St. Mary Community Action Agency operates 24 programs throughout 20 agency sites, including two central offices in St. Mary and Vermilion, three neighborhood service centers, (Morgan City, Baldwin and Centerville) and 13 Head Start centers.

“The agency consistently demonstrates its ability to effectively forge relationships between major resource providers throughout the nation in an effort to efficiently link disadvantaged families in St. Mary and Vermilion parishes to the services they require in obtaining a better quality of life,” says CEO Almetra Franklin, who has worked with the organization for 51 years.

Franklin says one of the organization’s central tenets has been to constantly evolve to meet the shifting needs of community members. The organization has implemented a number of programs, such as providing working locals with used cars and a community culinary academy to train workers for entry-level restaurant jobs, which has allowed many residents to go to culinary school and become chefs.

“These are the kinds of innovative things that we’re able to do to serve the community,” Franklin says. “We don’t just serve Head Start or housing or weatherization or lighting. We try to fit the needs of the families we serve in our community.”

Creating Housing Initiatives That Help People

St. Mary Community Action Agency offers an extensive range of housing-related services. The organization provides temporary housing for homeless families and seeks to help them gain self-sufficiency.

Other services include rent and mortgage assistance to prevent evictions, first-month rental assistance to move into a more stable environment, utility payments for people who have received a disconnection notice and emergency food assistance. These direct services are available contingent upon available funding.

The organization has also spearheaded the construction of affordable housing developments, including Faith Place subdivision, a 15-unit multifamily housing complex in Patterson, and Sparrow Gardens, a 30-unit townhouse complex in Centerville.

Other housing initiatives include homebuyer education classes and weatherization assistance through the U.S. Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which aims to improve heating and cooling efficiency.

“In the state of Louisiana there is so much substandard housing,” Franklin says. “As a part of our mission — people helping people, because that’s our motto — housing has to be one of the first things, along with transportation and employment, that we consider.”

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