Domestic violence survivors turn here: Metro Centers for Community Advocacy opens LaPlace location

Published 12:17 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

LAPLACE — Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking who have had control stolen away can find their voice and make choices to dictate their own destiny within the safe confines of the Metro Centers for Community Advocacy LaPlace location.

Serving eight parishes in Southeast Louisiana, Metro Centers for Community Advocacy is a locally based 501c3 providing free and confidential services to all survivors, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.

The LaPlace office, stationed at a discreet building on Belle Terre Boulevard, opened to the public six months ago and was recently welcomed into the community with a ribbon cutting.

Director Darlene Santana said Metro has been in the River Parishes for 15 years, but the new office creates a more accessible location to provide services.

Emergency shelters, handicap-accessible safe housing, individual advocacy, information and referrals, group support, medical advocacy, legal advocacy including protective orders, safety planning, financial literacy and more are available to survivors, Santana said.

Metro staff and volunteers are always on hand to answer a 24-hour crisis line, 504-837-5400, to make appointments, offer emergency placement or make appropriate referrals in a survivor’s time of need.

Evelena Conerly picks up the phone Tuesday morning at the LaPlace Metro Centers for Community Advocacy location.

Those located outside of Southeast Louisiana can call toll-free at 888-411-5400 to connect to the closest domestic violence shelter.

Advocate Evelena Conerly has been with the organization for more than 15 years, having discovered it through a social work internship. Her goal is to provide a voice for underprivileged populations.

“When survivors come in, a lot of them don’t know what services are available to them because they’ve been isolated for so long and only had the abuser to listen to,” Conerly said.

There have been success stories and works in progress, according to Conerly.

One of the most touching cases she’s seen was that of a young woman who brought her family of five in for counseling and housing services, having just escaped an abusive situation she’d felt trapped in since age 13.

Amidst all the life changes, she proudly watched her daughter graduate at the top of her class.

Conerly recognizes it isn’t possible to rescue everyone, but even when someone chooses to return to his or her abuser, she knows they’ll be back.

“Some people will come today, and you may not see them for the next two years,” Conerly said. “That’s the way domestic violence works.”

Pamphlets with a host of options for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are a small part of what is offered by Metro Centers for Community Advocacy. Services also include emergency shelters, safe housing, individual advocacy, group support, medical advocacy and more.

She said Metro staff members simply present options in a supportive environment.

“Everything is about a choice,” Conerly said.

“If we were to try to control what they do, we would become the abuser in the situation.”

Santana said survivors return as many times as they would like, free of charge and without judgment.

A taxicab service is available to survivors without transportation, and accommodations can be made for others to return to the abuser’s home to retrieve belongings so the victim does not have to.

She said all advocacy centers are discreet, with no signage, and monitored closely to ensure an abuser does not come knocking at the door and put others in danger.

Referrals often come from law enforcement, emergency rooms, social services or word of mouth.

Having worked with Metro for nearly a decade, Santana said the most rewarding part about the position is seeing people walk away from danger and open doors to a new life free from the fear of abuse.

She’s also loved seeing survivors bond during group counseling services guided by Conerly.

“They’re all so loving and nurturing and supportive with each other and with Evelena,” Santana said.

“All of these women came from a place where they were alone, and now they come together as a very supportive family.”

For more information, email, visit or like Metro Centers for Community Advocacy on Facebook.