A year ago Mike Johnson was a homeless alcoholic. He says the Salvation Army helped turn his life around and today Johnson is the night monitor at the agency's Gulfport shelter. Johnson knows there are hundreds of people just like him that will reach out to the agency for a second chance.
"Especially this time of the year with it bein' cold and freezing' at night. At least this does provide a place for them to come and get out of the cold at night. We have snacks, hot chocolate, we have coffee," Johnson says.
Now faced with a shrinking budget, the Salvation Army may have to cut back on some of those small comforts. There may be shorter hours that the shelter is open to the homeless, and cold sandwiches could replace daily hot meals.
"If we can't raise the initial funds that we're going to need then we're gonna have to look at cutting services," says Salvation Army Major Darrell Kingsbury.
Kingsbury says they are in a crisis. Instead of the estimated $90,000 that comes from the Christmas kettle drive each year, collections from the last two years are down by $42,000 thousand. Kingsbury says there's no time for fundraising, they need cash fast.
"We need $40,000 right now. More would help because that would give us a cushion for the rest of the year, but $40,000 would get us through the winter months and get things going," says Kingsbury.
The money from the kettles makes up about a third of the agency's operating budget. The Gulfport Salvation Army serves all of Harrison County except Biloxi, D'Iberville and Woolmarket. It also collects donations in Hancock, Stone and Pearl River Counties.
The Biloxi and Pascagoula Salvation Armies say while their kettle collections are also down, they will manage to provide services with the money they have.