BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A viewer sent pictures to WLOX News Now of people loitering around the Biloxi Town Green and sleeping on the ground. Robert White also addressed the pictures to Biloxi’s Mayor and Police Chief.
White expressed his concerns that the appearance of the Town Green isn't promoting a positive image of the city.
Biloxi Police Chief John Miller is all too familiar with complaints of homeless activity.
“We’ve reached a point now where we have an overabundance,” Miller said.
Coast Transit Authority Executive Director Kevin Coggin said due to an increase in loitering, they've recently hired overnight security to watch over the downtown Biloxi station.
Last year, the Biloxi City Council couldn’t come to an agreement on a proposal that would have turned the old Beauvoir Elementary School into a homeless transition center.
According to Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, the city’s homeless population has grown to around 400, and he wants something to be done to reduce that number.
"We need to have an assessment center to gather and figure out what solutions are possible for these people," Gilich said. "We've got to access it and get them with people that can help them."
Biloxi Police dedicates three officers to deal with panhandlers, and Chief Miller said more resources will be added during the winter months.
“All that team will do is go around all day try and identify these people,” Miller said. “If they’re being a nuisance in one spot they’ll try to move them to another spot. If they’ve been drinking or publicly intoxicated or they’re causing a disturbance, we’ll arrested them, but we can’t arrest them all, and all of them aren’t causing a problem.”
On a regular basis, Miller said his officers encounter people asking for money. Even though they may appear to be in need, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re homeless.
“A lot of these people that we think falls into the homeless category really aren’t homeless,” Miller said.
According to Miller, some panhandlers can be aggressive, and he recommends not to give money directly to them.
“I assure you that there are several organizations in town that are making sure that people are fed every day,” Miller said. "Don’t listen to the sob stories. If you want to help these folks, give money to the organizations where they can buy the food and prepare it every day. "
Miller said homelessness isn’t isolated to just Biloxi. He’s heard about city’s across the coast dealing with it.