Lake Charles Homeless Shelters founder reflects on work | California News

By RITA LEBLEU, American Press

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Reverend Leona Benoit has found purpose in caring for people on the streets and those who now have a home, through her efforts.

When his mother died, Benoit was 10 years old.

“We were sharecroppers. Dad had to work in the fields every day and I had 11 siblings,” Benoit said. “I was next to the eldest. My 15 year old sister and I took care of all the younger ones. The youngest was 18 months old. Since then, I take care of others in one way or another.

Benoit is the founder of two local homeless shelters, The Potter’s House, established in 1989, for women and children. Place du Seigneur, created in 1992, is intended for men. Both were damaged by hurricanes and repairs are underway.

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“The potter’s house is home to 16 women and four children now,” Benoit said. “Once the repairs are completed on our annex, which is estimated to cost $45,000, we will be able to house more and, of course, we house more than the norm when it is cold. The House of the Lord houses 28 men. Damage was not as extensive at this property.

When she started elementary school, Leona remembers telling her mother that she was going to grow up and move to California, build a big house surrounded by a picket fence and visit her every day so she could get away from it all. take care of her and her classmates. necessary care.

“I didn’t realize we were as poor as them,” Benoit said. “I just knew that I didn’t want to work in the fields for the rest of my life.”

Benoit went to California in 1967. While there she began a prison and skid hall ministry. Thirty-five years ago, Benoit returned to Lake Charles and quickly realized that Lake Charles did not have the homeless housing options here that Los Angeles had. There were, however, plenty of nightclubs.

“God told me to go out on (Enterprise) Boulevard on Fridays and Saturdays, and in two years he would close all the nightclubs,” she said.

She and a group of ladies handed out Christian tracts, up to 200 sandwiches at a time, and juice.

“In two years, all the nightclubs have been closed except for the American Legion Hall,” she said. “The police came to us and told us that they had been trying to shut down these nightclubs for years.”

She said she’s seen many horrible sites over the past two years, but one in particular stands out.

“We found a man lying in a field. We later found out he was beaten nearly to death with a two-by-four. We started praying, binding Satan and the Lord spoke to me, saying that if we put seven drops of oil on his head, the Lord would raise him up. We did it and he did it.

Benoit helped feed the hungry when she didn’t know where the money for the food would come from and she took another leap of faith when she decided to forego the financial assistance provided by some organizations to nonprofit and government and state agencies for homeless shelters. Accepting those dollars meant she couldn’t force the men, women and children living in the shelters to go to church.

“God told me to forfeit the funds and no notes were missed,” she said. “All we get is by faith.”

Benoit said growing up the way she did was a help because she knew how to stretch a dollar. “When people ask me how I created these havens, I tell them, ‘On the sofa in my living room,'” she said. When I came into contact with people who had nowhere to go, I asked my husband if they could stay and sleep on the couch for a few weeks.

Benoit explained what she means when she “hears about God”.

“You have to have a relationship first,” she said. “Then you must know how to recognize his voice. In John 10:27 it says my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. When you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, He will lead and guide you into all truth (John 16:3). And finally, if what you hear from God isn’t good, isn’t right, it isn’t from God.

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