Homelessness: Life in the Woods

Homelessness: Life in the Woods

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Walking along a grassy field in a secluded are of Hattiesburg, you can't help but notice a foot trail that leads to an opening in the woods.

There's an encampment inside the woods where some of the homeless population lives.

Inside we found tents, clothes, trash and sofas.

Some of it belongs to Charles Badger and his wife Jessica, who live underneath one of the tents.

The couple moved to this location about 3 months ago, and they said it's safer here because the police don't bother them.

"It's really rough, it really is," Jessica said. "It's hard especially when you have no one here to help."

Jessica said her life spiraled out of control when she just 18 years old.

"I was with a boyfriend of mine, and we broke up, split up whatever," Jessica said. "I went to jail. And then got out of jail and they sent me to the field house because my family didn't want anything to do with me since then."

Charles said he comes from a wealthy family.

"My granddaddy raised me better than this, but certain circumstances in life happen and you can't control what God throws your way," Charles said.

They both admit to using drugs like meth.

"I can't do this anymore, we're not going to get any blessings using drugs," Jessica said. "The streets cost us to using drugs simply because we're so stressed out. We don't know where to turn, we don't know where to go."

They said they're clean now, but they have no money and no food.

I don't know where I'm getting my next meal, I don't know where I'm getting my next dollar to get hygiene and it really hurts when we have no one to help us.

During our conversation, Charles is visibly angry. He said it's his job to create better life for his family. But right now, he can't figure things out.

"I hate to say that I barely can call myself a man most of the time because I'm like, I've got an old lady, and everybody's like well how are you going to take care of her," Charles said.

The worst part of it all for them was having to give up their little girl, because they can't afford to care for her.

"Being homeless and not able to have her believe me, it sucks," Jessica said.

With so many people battling homeless, we reached out to Hattiesburg Homeless Coordinator Kim Townsend to see what city officials are doing to alleviate this growing problem.

"We are actually going out every two weeks into the encampments where we know people are sleeping, and actually engaging them, trying to get them connected to services that are available to them," Townsend said.

Every year in January, city leaders complete an official count to see how many people are what they call chronically homeless.

"We counted in Forrest County 187 individuals," Townsend said.

That number is down from last year, but Townsend said it's still too high.

She said the only way to end homelessness is by helping those who don't have a home, as well as others who are on the brink of losing everything.

"How do we prevent that from happening and support those families that are so close to homeless," Townsend said.

In the meantime, Charles and Jessica say they'll keep struggling to survive. They're clinging to hope that it won't be this way forever.

"My momma always told me before she died, don't ever give up on yourself, or anyone that's helping you," Jessica said. "I haven't given up on myself or my husband."