Helping homeless families in south Mississippi

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of people in Mississippi are homeless. And with a dwindling economy and fewer jobs, those numbers are on the rise.

For the past ten years, The Interfaith Hospitality Network has remained the only organization from Long Beach to Ocean Springs that serves homeless families. But with operational costs increasing and donations decreasing, the local organization is in serious financial trouble. Now it's calling on the community for help.

"We're struggling. The demand for services is way up," said Debra Melton.

Melton has been with the Interfaith Hospitality Network since its conception. She's seen families come and families go, and she knows south Mississippi's homeless situation is not getting any better.

"I'm getting three or four calls that I add to our waiting list every day and donations are down," said Melton. "There's just no other way to put it."

The network runs a temporary housing option for homeless families.

"There are missions that will house homeless men, they will house homeless women with dependent children. But if we want to maintain keeping a family together, mom and dad and children, there are no facilities for that," said Dr. Todd Coulter.

Dr. Coulter is the board president for IHN.

"This is a mission in Mississippi, sponsored by Mississippians, for the people of Mississippi," said Coulter.

The organization houses families in what it calls the Rebekah House. The program gives struggling families a few weeks to live in a clean, safe environment to help them get their lives back on track. But with very little funds for day-to-day operations, the program is in trouble.

"If there is no money, there is no mission," said Coulter.

Right now there are 18 families on the waiting list for housing, but until the organization can secure funding, its not accepting additional families.

Leaders with the Interfaith Hospitality Network are asking people to commit to donating just $20 a month. They say if they can get 300 people commit to the monthly donation, it will pay for their monthly operating costs. For more information, you can call (228) 388-3061.

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