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(Photos by Freddie Herpin)
Bobby Ardoin, Editor/Consulting Writer

Selected men who were previously dormitory residents at the Refinery Shelter are transitioning into a more economically independent life as they enjoy a new apartment-style atmosphere that was publicly unveiled Friday during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The $1.8 million 54-bed facility is now occupied by 30 men who once qualified for only temporary shelter accommodation at the Refinery men’s facility located adjacently on West South Street in Opelousas.

Johnny Carriere, Refinery director, said the men who qualify for a Phase 2 enhanced living arrangement are individuals that about four months ago became increasingly self-sufficient and eligible for taking a next step into societal autonomy.

“This is part of our transitional program for our guys who have been here and are ready for a new level of independence. The men who qualify are beginning to make a living on their own and who appear ready for another step at their rehabilitation,” Carriere said during a telephone interview.

Those who are now living at the facility located across the street from the Phase 1 housing area enjoy modern amenities such as cable television, bathroom, Internet, water, gas and utilities for $375 monthly.

Residents have the option of living alone in one of the rooms or with another man in order to share the overall costs, said Carriere.

The Phase 2 occupants are also afforded three meals that are cooked and served inside the dormitory where they were once residents.

“Our men who are at the new facility are paying to live there, but the cost involved is a lot cheaper than what they might be required to pay at the traditional halfway houses. The prices for our units probably cut in half what it would cost at another similar facility,” Carriere added.

Groundbreaking for the new Refinery Shelter occurred in November of 2021. Construction took a little longer than anticipated, Carriere noted, due to COVID.

Carriere also pointed out that no federal dollars are involved in paying for the costs of the Phase 2 facility.

The Stuller Foundation provided $270,000 for the project. Another $750,000 originated from the Federal Home Bank in Dallas, while the remainder of the money was obtained from private donations.

“At this point I would say that what we have for Phase 2 is about 90 percent paid for,” added Carriere.

Carriere also said that having the new more independent-style living arrangement also serves as a tempting invitation for those men who have just arrived at the dormitory.

“Men come here initially and they see what is possible for them if they follow our rules and work at becoming more independent by using their skills to improve their situation in life. In order to do that all they have to do is look and see what is available for them across the street,” said Carriere.

Photo Gallery, taken by Freddie Herpin. View more on St. Landry Now.