HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - We now have a better look into homelessness in Hattiesburg. Numbers are in, indicating the homeless population has decreased compared to last year in the Hattiesburg area.
WDAM takes a look at the numbers, plus the organizations in the Pine Belt who have a mission of lending helping hands.
“We see a lot of families on the verge of being homeless," said Don McCloskey from St. Vincent De Paul. "We see a low percentage of homeless. We help them with clothing, with food and maybe just little packs to get them through the day.”
St. Vincent De Paul with the Saint Thomas Aquinas Church and Sacred Heart in Hattiesburg is one of several organizations that helps the less fortunate.
“Our goal is to get homeless veterans back on their feet and stable. Working if they are able to work. If they are unable to work we help them get connected to the V.A,” said Ashley Pack with Pine Belt Mental Health’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families.
The Pine Belt is full of resources for the homeless population. From private to federal and city sectors, those people work together to help those in need.
“We work with not only women with children, but men as well. So, just families with children under the age of 18 and you do have to meet H.U.D.'s definition of homelessness,” said Demetra Bates with the University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies.
The Point In Time Count, which is a yearly look at the homeless population locally, shows the numbers are down compared to last year.
“We had just over a hundred that were counted," said Hattiesburg Homeless Coordinator Kim Townsend. “Again, that is a snapshot of what’s actually here. I would predict that number is a little bit higher than that. It came back a little bit lower than last year.”
Townsend said last year, more than 130 people made up the homeless population. She said outreach teams found most of the population is made up of transient people moving through the area. In the coming months, the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter will once again open its doors.
“We’ve been without an emergency overnight shelter for a little over two years or about two and a half years," Townsend said. "Whenever the tornado happened in January 2017. We have been working with the Laurel shelter to get people there if that’s needed.”
Every week the Pine Belt Coalition on Homelessness meets to talk about resources available and what needs to be accomplished. This group is made up of different local organizations with the common mission of making a change.
“It is very great to have this awesome group of individuals within the Pine Belt that we can network with,” Bates said,
“[To] be able to give back to someone else who I can understand what they’ve been through, gives me a purpose,” Pack said.