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Renewal Center on Desiard St. looking to expand social services

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:39 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Renewal Center, formerly known as the Desiard Street Shelter, has big plans for the future. They’re hoping to raise money to add a dining center, career incubator, and transitional housing.

“That dining hall will be built similar to a high school dining hall with a serving area and an open where your tables,” said Executive Director Billy Varner.

Varner says one of his top priorities is ensuring those experiencing homelessness feel like they are part of a community.

“It’s one thing to put a meal out, but what I miss the most, and what our volunteers miss the most, is the interaction with our guests,” explained Varner.

Varner says the Renewal Center will use the increased space to expand resources, including a document recovery program and social security assistance program.

“Well, the whole idea is to use that space when they are not eating to facilitate groups and other programs,” Varner told KNOE.

Varner says phase three of the expansion will include an incubator to prepare guests for success in their future careers.

“Hopefully, they would get a three to six months basic culinary arts certificate,” said Varner.

Varner says the plan is to construct another building with a commercial kitchen to facilitate the program.

“They would have a basic knowledge of health, sanitation, to go in and work in restaurants,” said Varner.

The goal, according to Varner, is to create a campus-like feel. Phase four of the program would include both dormitory shelter space and transitional housing.

“I would not want to house more than 20 people doing emergency cases,” Varner told KNOE.

Varner is looking to local churches to help raise money for the expansion. He hopes to have it completed within five years.

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