HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A new report released finds Mississippi has the highest percentage of adults 60 years and older facing the threat of hunger.
“Our mission is to mainly help the needy in the community. I don’t call them the poor, because many times people that are necessarily poor, become needy,” said St. Vincent de Paul team member Joseph Kinnan.
Two local church congregations in Hattiesburg support St. Vincent de Paul. Kinnan said its goal is to lend a helping hand to those who need it the most.
“We evaluate each situation carefully and then try and provide for their needs,” Kinnan said.
“Are y’all seeing a big need here in Hattiesburg for people in the age range 60 and older?” reporter Jessica Bowman asked.
“There is a great need mainly in the area of utilities, but a lot of need for food," Kinnan said. "With the change in the weather, you get this cold weather, the gas prices go up and the electricity. People are just devastated that way.”
A new report released from Databank USA and the 2018 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report showed the percentage of adults in Mississippi ages 60 and older face the threat of hunger more than any other state. This data revealed in the past 12 months, 24.3 percent of adults 60 years and older in our state face hunger.
“I think in Mississippi that is a problem across the board,” said Kim Townsend, homeless coordinator for the city of Hattiesburg.
Townsend said the national statistics parallel with what her team is seeing locally.
“We have a large problem with people getting connected with SNAP benefits than in other states," Townsend said. "The eligibility requirements are more difficult. When you are homeless or you are low income and you don’t have a good mode of transportation to get there, you have to do an in person interview.”
Which in turn, she said, forces people to miss their opportunity to get connected with those benefits.
While the state faces this problem, there are local organizations and volunteers working to make those numbers decrease.
“We have a food bank or box and we bring out a food box for the folks to take to their homes,” Kinnan said.
Looking at the homeless population, Townsend said in the next few weeks the Point and Time Count will start. This is Hattiesburg’s yearly census of the homeless population, showing a snapshot of what it currently looks like.
In 2018, there were around 130 homeless people in Forrest County. Townsend expects that number to grow this year.
To get connected to St. Vincent de Paul, click here.
If you would like to volunteer for the Point and Time Count, visit their Facebook page.