Giving people independence: Options for Independence helps those in need

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Housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and aiding people with mental and physical obstacles to success are for most people miracles beyond reach.

For Barry Chauvin and the staff at Options for Independence it’s all in a day’s work – or a lifetime’s worth of it.

Operating below the radar, rarely gathering much publicity, the Houma-based non-profit gathers instead a steady track record of getting things done.

Founded in 1992, the 501 (c) 3 social service agency’s stated goal is “building better communities, one person at a time.”

One by one, under Chauvin’s careful stewardship, the agency has taken on societal ills and developed solutions.

“An initial goal was helping people with disabilities receive home and community-based services, thus avoiding the need for institutional care,” Chauvin said. “Over the years Options for Independence grew, partly through our own initiative, but largely through our response to calls for service from within the communities we serve”

The service area is daunting and large, including Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. James, Assumption and St. John parishes.

Today the agency’s helping hands assist people with serious mental illness, people who are homeless, persons who struggle with chronic unemployment and those affected by natural disasters. A special living space for girls on the grounds of the MacDonnell Methodist Children’s Home called the Hooper Dorm provides for emotional, educational and behavioral needs. Additionally, Options for Independence now seeks to address issues brought on by substance abuse, and in particular stop the economic and social spirals relating to those that keep people trapped in a life of persistent want.

The footprint of Options for Independence housing is widening, especially in Terrebonne Parish, where easing the dearth of affordable housing is a high priority.

Initially funded with state money, Options now partners with some national entities in its pursuit of grants, and also receives financial support from private donors.

It was Chauvin’s grant-writing ability that brought him to the attention of officials seeking solutions to problems back in 1992, when Options was in its infancy.

Always one to give as much as possible, he had already made a mark as a special education instructor and then as coordinator of adult services at the Terrebonne ARC.

The agency’s substance abuse approach is muti-dimensional, with its core an outpatient program for rehabilitation and reunification of thse who are chemically dependent with their families.

“The primary purpose of the treatment program is to provide an intensive outpatient, structured program designed to treat chemical abuse and dependency with the goal of promoting coping skills to manage substance abuse symptoms and behaviors,” a program description states. “All services are person-centered with a focus on the participant assisting with the development of the treatment goals based on the individual’s needs, strengths and abilities. Both group and individual substance abuse therapy utilizes evidence-based models for education and treatment.”

Services are provided for youth as well as adults.

Heavily engaged with securing contracts for new housing sites, Chauvin has no plans to rest anytime soon.

“I have a few things I still need to accomplish,” he said.

Options for Independence