CADA house a safe haven for battered, abused women

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Communities Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) Billie Sue Thomas Well serves battered women by giving them a safe place to reside away from an abuser.

Registration for cooks in CADA’s annual Taste-N-Tell cook-off in October is now open, a fundraiser that supports the safe house so it can continue to help domestic violence victims.

Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the staff at CADA house, which includes director Lacey Guidry, legal advocate Ora Randolph, women’s advocate Cynthia Petry, children’s advocate Dayna Swartz, bookkeeper Janice Esthay and four part-time residential aides, advocate for and counsel abused women staying within the safe house, and fields calls from a hotline.

The Billie Sue Thomas Well was made possible when Jennings United Methodist Church offered to provide a house to specifically become a battered women’s shelter.

“The owner of this house was a battered woman and that’s what she wanted to do with this place when she passed away,” she said. “We’ve grown from there and Jennings is lucky, because other places don’t have the same sort of resources we offer.”

Guidry said women who reside at the shelter must help maintain the house and follow a set of rules during a standard 45-day stay at the house.

“They have to clean the house and do their part because the house needs to be kept in order for when we get inspected periodically,” she said.

On a daily basis, the staff addresses the needs of the women and their children in the safe house. Sometimes outside counselors are brought in to help victims.

Sometimes emergency help is needed.

“The crisis hotline is for anyone who is being hurt at that moment. We call 911 in some cases others,” Guidry said. “We ask if they’re safe and if they say ‘no,’ we immediately call 911 to the address.”

On occasion, there are “high-risk situations”, Guidry said.

“One time someone found their wife through the OnStar in their vehicle, so we had to disconnect the battery, and he eventually got picked up,” she said. “When these types of things happen, we get a patrol officer to guard the house all day and night. We really have to be very careful of who is knocking on the door.”

The police are a major help to CADA, Guidry said.

“We can’t really have weapons or even mace here because it’s a battered women’s shelter. We lean on the police department a lot and they are a big help to us,” she said. “If we need them, they come, and if we’re calling, they’re at the door before we’re off the phone with the dispatcher.”

Guidry said CADA is working to expand its facilities because the current house can only hold up to 12 people.

“This in the making but we still have a lot of funds we have to save up for,” she said. “We had an architect who knew a resident we had a year ago, who was his professor. He came and did a plan for us for free. We have $100,000 in building funds toward that but we would need about $500,000 to build it.”

Guidry said another way volunteers and employees would like to improve CADA is to gain more public transportation.

“We need this because sometimes women come here and don’t have a vehicle, so they have to walk to their place of employment. We can’t take them places for insurance reasons,” she said. “Council on Aging (COA) steps in and take them to things like medical appointments out of town and we pay them from case to case, but that’s one thing we’d like to look more into.”

Guidry said she is thankful to work at what she sees as a vital community resource.

“It’s a very meaningful place. It’s really sad these women get abused, so it’s nice we have such a safe place for them to come when they reach a breaking point,” she said. “We’re happy CADA has such strong community support from the parish.”

CADA can be reached at (337) 616-8418. Its 24-hour emergency hotline can be reached at (866) 883-2232.