A Hidden Side of Homelessness: Pine Belt lacks shelters for women

As of Jan. 2018, The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development says 1,352 experience homelessness on any given day

A Hidden Side of Homelessness: Pine Belt lacks shelters for women

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Some women in the Pine Belt are stuck without a home. Many reasons have been brought to the table which includes, money and transportation but one issue that has been expressed to me is the lack of women shelters.

Homelessness can affect anyone, but it hits home for mother of five, Teicie Hutchins, who lives day by day searching for a place for her family.

“If you want to get help period there are really no places in Mississippi,” said Hutchins. “I can talk about it all day, but you really won’t know unless you live it.”

Teicie said there are not many homeless shelters that house women and children throughout the Pine Belt. I made phone calls to shelters around our area and found that the nearest shelter that houses women as of this month is the Salvation Army in Laurel, Ms. The distance from the Forrest County area to Laurel is equal to 27 miles driving. According to Google maps, the distance walking is at least 9 hours.

After calling around I found that it is only up to non-profits, like Field house for the homeless, to fix the issue.

Cynthia Young, Director of the Fieldhouse said in the last 5 years the homeless women statistics have changed.

“Our center provides day shelter for both men and women however when we first started the number of women weren’t there," said Young.

“Those numbers have increased drastically since we’ve been open over the past five years. And there’s a larger percentage of homeless women and children now."

Mashon Mcglown lives in the Pine Belt off Highway 49 south.

“We have nowhere to go there’s nowhere for women to go at all. So, like that’s why I go to the field house,” said Mashon.

She lives back in the woods inside a tent with everything you normally would see in a two to a three-bedroom home. The woods surround her tent with her belongings sitting inside including her own mattress. Mcglown said that the only thing that separates her and the woods is a tent zipper.

“Right now, we got a camp that’s over here, Mcglown said. "We got a camp over here and then we get three down here. I don’t want to sleep on a cot, so I have a bed you know. I had to bring my bed all the way out here and every time they make us move, we have to get all our stuff and go.”

Field house administration told WDAM a new women’s shelter will break ground in Hattiesburg soon, but they need support from the community.

“It’s looking really promising but we need more sponsors to make that possible,” said Young. “It’s going to be for women and women with children.”

Women living in the woods said that they refuse to travel far to find a home.

The need for women shelters has been an issue that not only the field house has recognized but women who have called looking for a place to call home.

“Homeless women all around the Pine Belt area," said Young. "We get calls from all different areas. Jefferson Davis County, Covington County, Perry, and the greatest number is here in Forrest and Lamar County.”

If you would like to sponsor the women’s shelter founded by Cynthia Young and her team, you can do so by visiting the shelters Facebook page here. The Fieldhouse for the Homeless’ number is (601)-336-4055.

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