Activists protest closing

Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 5, 2008

FERRIDAY — A group of local ministers and activists gathered Friday to protest what they called “a massive breakdown in communication.”

The Department of Social Services building in Ferriday temporarily closed its doors Tuesday because the state’s lease on the building was up, Department of Social Services Public Information Officer Janice Lovett said.

The office has moved to Jonesville for the time being, but those who want assistance with food stamps, child-care or the family independence temporary assistance program may visit the Louisiana Workforce Office on E.E. Wallace Boulevard from 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

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“This actually provides more intake hours per week in Ferriday than previously available,” Lovett said. “The previous intake office hours were Mondays and Wednesdays from 8-11:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-11:30 a.m. and no applications were accepted on Fridays.”

But it is because the move was made with so little fanfare and the fact that the Medicaid and VA offices have been moved to Jonesville that the Rev. Justin Conner, president of the Concordia-Catahoula NAACP, is upset.

“The bulk of the people in need of these services are in this area,” Conner said.

Local Natchez activist Ser Sesh ab-Heter C.M. Boxley said having to travel that far creates a hardship for those who might need the services.

“If they have no transportation, they’re still going to have to get someone to take them, so it’s a cost either way,” he said.

While the group gathered for the protest, several people came to the office, some with envelopes stating they had appointments to keep at the now-closed location, and the local phone number that was posted on the door for those without long distance to call was disconnected.

That seemed to be a perfect demonstration of Everett Schiele saw as a breakdown in communication.

“It was miscommunicated, and not everyone got the message,” Schiele said.

The secretary of the Office of Family Support — a division of the Department of Social Services — will meet with concerned citizens at 9 a.m. Jan. 10 at Morning Star Baptist Church in Ferriday to try to iron out any wrinkles in communication, Conner said.

The Department of Social Services expects to have bids for a new building in Ferriday by April, Lovett said.