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Mercy Center rehab in Shreveport tackles finishing touches

Kate Archer Kent

The nearly yearlong renovation of two Victorian-era homes in Shreveport will be completed Thursday.

The homes are a part of the Mercy Center, a division of the Philadelphia Center that provides housing to clients who are homeless and living with HIV.

The two historic homes that date back to the 1800s will begin housing 14 residents on Sept 29, according to Mercy Center program director LaToya White. She says this housing allows residents ample time to get back on their feet.

“Mercy Center is built on the principle of however long it takes an individual to gain their self-confidence and independence, that’s what we’re here for and want to support. There’s no time limit on staying at Mercy Center,” White said, standing outside the Thomas House at 740 Austin Place, on the outskirts of Shreveport Common just west of downtown.

Mercy Center was once a hospice caring for people who were dying of AIDS. It was operated by the Christus Schumpert Health System until the Philadelphia Center took over in 2001. White was told stories from overnight nurses that the Mercy Center was once a grave place before drug therapies were discovered to control HIV infection.

“It was a very serious time. I remember them saying you didn’t do too much laughing and smiling. It was serious business. They had the nurse call buttons. I actually just had them take a lot of those down,” White said.

LaToya White, Mercy Center's program director, will have her office in the former Christian-Hamel House, an example of Queen Anne cottage architecture.

Renovations to the Mercy Center were made possible through a home grant from the city of Shreveport with a match from the MAC AIDS Fund. White says now the Philadelphia Center seeks community support for the furnishings. Rooms need home décor and all the personal touches that will make it homey. A decorating party is set for Saturday, Sept. 27. More information is at Philadelphiacenter.org or at 318-222-6633.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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