FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Mayor Johnny DuPree held a press conference about the homeless encampment clearing by Walmart on U.S. Hwy 49 in Hattiesburg Wednesday morning.
He talked about his collaboration with the Mississippi United To End Homelessness organization and city homelessness coordinator, Kim Townsend on the project. Together, they were able to clear the wooded area and find housing for some of the homeless people living in the woods.
"It's a culture," DuPree said. "If you don't stop it where it is, you perpetuate it. It's not just adults, it's the children. The children grow up and it's all they know."
DuPree also explained that because the wooded area was privately owned, it took several months to disband the camps.
While many in the community have applauded the move, some neighbors of the homeless community said it could not come soon enough. One resident who wanted to remain anonymous said that the camps have been going on for 10 years. In a Facebook message, he talked about the burden the camps brought on his community.
He said, "Protecting our property values is our upmost concern, and we are pleased with the efforts being done to make the area we pay to call home, just that."
Out of the 16 people found at the camp site, eight have found housing and an additional four have signed initial paperwork to find housing. MUTEH offers medical, mental health and employment services in addition to helping the homeless find a permanent home.
The organization asks the Pine Belt to donate kitchen supplies. If you are interested in donating, call Amanda McDonald at 601-960-0557.