Hattiesburg men explain how they ended up homeless - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg men explain how they ended up homeless in a tent city


If you would like to help, contact Hattiesburg Hope House on their Facebook page at http://goo.gl/jhBy0 or drop off goods at 207 3rd Avenue or at 1105 West Pine in Hattiesburg.

"I was probably a week shy of a good check when I lost my job," said a man living in one of Hattiesburg's dozen or so homeless tent cities who declined to give his name.

There are any number of ways a person can wind up homeless.

"A lot of people don't realize it doesn't take two months and they could end up in the same boat," said Jack, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette at his campsite.

Over the last several years the face of homelessness has changed drastically.

"Any one of us is a few steps away from being homeless," says Pine Belt Homeless Coalition chair. "I think every one of now encounters someone on a daily basis that is homeless because they may be living in their car or they may be surfing on someone's couch, but they're functional and that's part of what is different in homelessness that we're seeing now, people are actually working and going to school. You may not know that the person next to you in the grocery store is homeless, but they are. Or the child that's sitting next to your child in class is homeless, but they are."

A good number of those on the streets - in Hattiesburg and nationwide - are mentally ill. But many others are cognizant, they're homeless and they hate it.

"I want to be able to cook, take showers and stuff too," said Carlos, another tent city resident.

"Now we actually have places in the woods where women are living. That's a fairly new phenomenon for Hattiesburg, for our area, but it's growing," says Garner.

Over the course of this investigation we met only men, many of them -  like 53-year-old Jack - living in the woods after a streak of incredibly bad luck.

"At one time I was a wealthy person in my life and everything. Sold two car lots out, and a garage and everything and me and my wife moved to Florida and she passed away and she died of cancer and it took her life and every dime with it," said Jack, who declined to give his last name.

Not long after she died, Hurricane Katrina destroyed his Gulfport home and he never rebuilt.

When asked why, if he was at one point a successful businessman, he has been homeless for more than six years, Jack said, for a long time he did not have the will to do better or the attitude to persevere.

"Basically people that are homeless sometimes you're just in the mold where they just don't care."

A man, called ‘Cowboy' around the camp, said he started living here more than a month ago when he lost his job and his girlfriend kicked him out.

He said he is not staying with family or friends because he does not want to be a burden. "I don't want to be in nobody's way, I don't want nobody being in my way." He was a truck driver for 13 years he said and he does not mind being alone.

Carlos said he's living in the woods after years of alcoholism - he grew up in Hattiesburg and says, in the past, he's been arrested for unpaid fines and has a felony record for a marijuana possession charge..

"I can't blame nobody but myself," he said.

He says he blew chance after chance with friends and family. Now he works on and off. "I'd love to have a full time job," he says his criminal record and his presentation, living, showering and dressing in the woods, make that difficult.

Most of the men that we met during this investigation work. They have regular income but never enough for a security deposit, they say. Jack has mechanic skills and says he does mostly odd jobs. He attends several churches; few people, he said, even know he lives in a tent.

The thing about homelessness is - once you move into the woods – with no car, and rarely a phone or another basic resources, its very hard to get out.

"I got to work on getting IDs and all social security card and all that stuff over all over again, everything really - I just done lost everything - wife, kids, all of that," said Carlos. "It just seems like this ain't supposed to happen"

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