Walk raises awareness for homelessness

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A coast organization that has helped more than 50 homeless families get back on their feet is expanding the way it raises money and awareness. The Ocean Springs-Long Beach Interfaith Hospitality Network hosted its first bridge walk to help fund its homeless shelter. Organizers say trying to make better lives for themselves face a lot of struggles.

Members of Our Lady Of Fatima's Catholic Youth Organization say there are two kinds of people in the world: those who see problems in the community and do nothing and those who try to make a difference.

On Saturday, the middle school students said their parents are teaching them to be the ones who walk the walk.

"It's important for when they grow up, so they won't be one of those people who stands there and watches," said 13-year-old Stephen Alexander. "They go out and do stuff."

Twelve-year-old Ben Cook said, "[I] want to be known for doing stuff instead of being the person that never does anything."

The money raised from the bridge walk will go to helping homeless families housed at a shelter. The Ocean Springs Long Beach Interfaith Hospitality Network said these are tough economic times even for people fortunate enough to have jobs.

Father Steve Wilson is the organization's director.

"So many people are from paycheck to paycheck. They can't make the rent; they're on the street," Wilson said.

"Even if you're working. If you're working a minimum wage job, how can you get up first and last month's rent," said Father Wilson. "How do you get up monthly rent on top of that, a deposit? Everything you need for a household? It's next to impossible."

Since Rebekah's House opened two years ago, officials say 54 families have come through the doors and have gotten the support to find employment and permanent housing. The meals, utilities and case management that parents and children received during their stay takes money.

"It's always a struggle. There's never a time when we're not just scraping together pennies and dimes. Just the way it is," said Wilson. "But it's been particularly acute. Like all the non-profits right now, it's been particularly acute, so we kind of came up with this idea of a walk-a-thon and people have been fantastic. They've been really good, very responsive, and we're doing alright."

Officials say Rebekah's House accepts families with children 18 and under who meet certain guidelines. Residents must agree to a criminal background screening, no substance abuse, no untreated mental health issues, no active domestic violence and adults must be willing and able to find and keep a job.

For more information call 228-388-3061.

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