Mississippi's homeless population increasing, officials estimate

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It's typical for most families to spend the holiday indoors eating hot meals.  Unfortunately, there's a growing number people in the state that will do without this season.  According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development homelessness in Mississippi is on the rise.

According to the agency's latest report the homeless population in Mississippi has increased from 2011 to 2012. The agency estimates there was a 4.6 percent rise in the Magnolia State.

Officials with Hattiesburg's Christian Services and Salvation Army agree the state's homeless population is growing.

"More and more people are unemployed, and need to pay their bills but can't. Money goes by faster than you realize," said Christian Services Co-Director, Cookie Prout.  In 2011, Christian Services served 1,600 people at their annual Thanksgiving dinner.  This year, they served 1,823.

The agency also reported that there are 2,413 homeless people living in Mississippi.

"That doesn't surprise me. The number of homeless continues to grow probably because of the economy," said Salvation Army Captain, Andy Gilliam.  Just a few years ago, the Salvation Army averaged 5-10 people staying in their shelter each night.

In 2012, they've seen an average of 25-40 people staying in their shelters each night.  HUD also added in their report that there were increases among the chronically homeless as well as among homeless veterans

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.