BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Authorities say an autopsy has been ordered in the death of a homeless man. Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove says Biloxi police got a call around 6 a.m. that a man had fallen from balcony at the old Magnolia Hotel.
Emergency responders pronounced the 47-year-old man dead at the scene. His name is being withheld until relatives can be notified. The historic hotel, which served as the Mardi Gras Museum before Katrina, has been closed since being damaged in the hurricane.
The tragedy marked the second time recently that a homeless person has died on the coast. Last week Ocean Springs police found Steven Franke dead of natural causes. Officers say Franke's body was found in the van he'd been living in for some time.
A faith-based ministry says the downturn in the economy has created more people who don't have a place to stay. Twice a week, homeless people needing a break from the sweltering heat can cool off at Project Safe Space in Biloxi.
"We do have a day center facility where they are able to come on Mondays and Thursdays to wash their clothes and take showers," said Ministry Director Anna Jacobs. "We provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as being in fellowship. We're starting some programs within the next few weeks. We're starting creative writing classes, financial literacy classes as well as A.A. classes that are coming soon. "
Jacobs says her case load is heavier these days.
"With the lack of employment on the coast and just with the economy the way it is right now, we have seen an increase in numbers," she said.
Project Safe Space not only gives out like toiletries and other items but helps in housing and job placement. Jacobs say she's had to give realistic advice to some people moving into the area looking for employment.
Jacobs said, "Normally, my advice for them based on their situation is that they do try to surround themselves by family network and resources that they're familiar with. That may be their hometown or a community that they are more familiar with."
Jacobs say solving the homeless problem is not just giving someone a place to stay but also about restoring people's dignity and feeding their spirit.
"We really just want to encourage the community to join us in extending hospitality to every community member, especially the ones that we serve on a day basis here at Project Safe Space," Jacobs said.
Project Safe Space officials say the day center was averaging 40 people on the days its open. Since the economic slowdown that's up to 60 people.