HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the city of Hattiesburg.
For nearly a decade, Mayor Johnny DuPree has fought to end homelessness and poverty across the Pine Belt. DuPree's mission was catapulted to the next level in 2007 when he assigned City of Hattiesburg Neighborhood Development Coordinator, Maxine Coleman, to the Pine Belt Coalition on Homelessness. Coleman would not only serve as a liaison but become a strong resource guide for city officials and residents seeking to end the state of homelessness. "None of our jobs is a one person show, it takes a team," said Coleman when asked about the achievements of the Coalition and city leaders to date.
One major achievement was announced on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 during a press conference at Hattiesburg City Hall. Last month, Hattiesburg became the second city in Mississippi to officially end veteran homelessness. The outcome was the response to an April 2015 meeting between Mayor DuPree and First Lady Michelle Obama where she challenged him to help her end veteran homelessness.
"I am thrilled to congratulate the City of Hattiesburg on the extraordinary achievement," said Obama. "To ensure that all homeless veterans throughout our country find permanent housing, we need to start at the ground level. More than 800 state and local leaders have banded together as part of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and we are seeing tremendous results," she said.
"We were happy to answer Mrs. Obama's call as we constantly work to implement effective strategies to assist and stabilize any homeless individual or family within our area," said DuPree. "Our community is one that stands with one another, especially those who sacrifice their lives for the very freedoms we enjoy today."
Ironically, Mayor DuPree was in the process of authoring another ground-breaking achievement with the addition of a City of Hattiesburg Homeless Coordinator position, the first of its kind within Mississippi.
"I am so thankful for the groundwork that Maxine has laid and the opportunity to be a part of such a supportive network of agencies in Hattiesburg and across the state," said Homeless Coordinator Kim Townsend.
Director of AIDS Services Coalition and Former President of the Pine Belt Coalition on Homelessness Kathy Garner summed it up best when she said, "Ending homelessness requires the dedication of government, agencies, and the community at large. Hattiesburg is blessed with a conscious for those in need."
Hattiesburg was able to achieve certification by:
- Using a “Housing First” approach, which removes barriers to help Veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, without unnecessary prerequisites;
- Prioritizing the most vulnerable Veterans, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness, for permanent supportive housing opportunities, including those created through the HUD-VASH program;
- Coordinating outreach efforts to identify and engage every Veteran experiencing homelessness and focusing outreach efforts on achieving housing outcomes;
- Targeting rapid re-housing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, toward Veterans and their families who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services in order to be reintegrated back into our communities;
- Leveraging housing and services that can help Veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs get into stable housing;
- Increasing early detection and access to preventive services so at-risk Veterans and their families remain stably housed; and
- Closely monitoring progress toward the goal, including the success of programs in achieving permanent housing outcomes
- The community is utilizing a “by-name” list of homeless veterans and is in the process of developing a coordinated entry system in which agencies can work more easily and effectively together to serve clients as quickly as possible.
- In addition to linking Veterans to housing resources, the community strives to connect them to mainstream resources and employment.