Shelters fill up as cold weather settles in

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Hot food and a warm shelter were a welcome relief for people who stayed overnight at the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.

Steven Smith, a former foster-care child, is 18 and homeless.  He said if it weren't for the Red Cross Shelter at Back Bay, it'd be a long, cold night.

"I'd probably be a human popsicle on the beach," said Smith.

It's the first year Back Bay has served as a cold weather shelter now that it's rebuilt and settled from Hurricane Katrina.

"We're happy to do it because that's what we're here to do," said Back Bay's Executive Director, Sharon Prestemon.

For the second year, Coast Transit Authority has stepped in to partner with shelters and help those needing relief from the cold.

"All (riders) need to do is get on the bus and tell the driver they're going to or from the shelters, and they can ride free of charge," said Kevin Coggin, Coast Transit Authority's Executive Director.

CTA said it offered the service two or three times last year.  Several hundred people, according to Coggin, boarded for a free ride.

Prestemon said the free rides are a much-needed service when cold weather shelters are opened.   She said, "to get (people) here, particularly if they're on other parts of the coast where getting here by foot is not a possibility, it's really essential to making this shelter work," said Prestemon.

The free CTA bus service will run from Monday through Wednesday at noon.  The Red Cross Shelter at Back Bay Mission will be open again Tuesday night from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.  The Feed My Sheep soup kitchen out of Gulfport offered a hot meal for those who came to Back Bay Monday night.

There were also two other shelters opened Monday night.  Biloxi's, Gulf Coast Rescue Mission, off DeBuys Road, opened its doors to about 30 men.

In Pascagoula, the Salvation Army off Nathan Hale Avenue was open and housed about 18 people.

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