Group looks for solutions to homelessness in Mississippi

By Ashley Porter - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Noel Rhodes lives in a shelter.

"I've been homeless since the first of the year. I had a lot of misfortune. My finances went down the tubes, job loss," he said.

He and Michael, a man who lives on the streets, both joined a conversation Friday in Jackson about homelessness.

"I find some enjoyment about coming to these meetings," Michael said. "Just hearing other views."

During the conference, part of Jackson's Project Homeless Connect Week, Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless spoke to the crowd.

"I would challenge you to work on ending homelessness," Stoops said.

It's a task that service providers, community organizers, even Michael and Rhodes are willing to think of suggestions for.

"A good, adequate transportation system to get the homeless to job situations, to medical situations," Rhodes recommended.

"People ask me, if we had a dollar, what would you spend a dollar on to help homeless folks?" Stoops said. "I would spend 50 cents to prevent people from becoming homeless, 25 cents for our emergency shelter network, and then the final 25 percent would go to do the outreach to those who are living outside."

Mississippi has one of the lowest concentrations of homeless people, but between 2007 and 2008, the state saw a 42 percent jump in its homeless population -- the biggest increase in the nation.

"Something must be done," Stoops urged.

Michael thinks conversations about homelessness often stop too soon.

"A lot of people see it as, well, it's your fault you ended up like that. So that's that," Michael said. "I hope I'll be here long enough on this earth to see a real change."

Rhodes is hoping to make a change, eventually helping people the same way his shelter is helping him.

"I want to go back and lift somebody else up," Rhodes said.

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