BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Gulf Coast Rescue Mission has operated a full time homeless shelter for men since 1965. And that ministry is about to expand its outreach. Planning is underway to build a shelter for women and children.
Social workers who deal with the homeless issue say it's something that's sorely needed in Harrison County.
The Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence can provide shelter for women who've been abused. But right now, the only overnight shelter on the coast for women and children is the Salvation Army in Pascagoula.
Tammy Mims and her husband, Rev. Tom Mims, have been ministering to homeless and troubled men for years at Gulf Coast Rescue Mission.
A recent donation of two and a half acres adjacent to the mission brings them a big step closer to building a shelter for women.
"This is something that's definitely needed. Because there are other places for men, but the women and possibly those with children don't have anywhere to turn to," said Tammy Mims.
Preliminary plans call for building a nearly 5,000 square foot, two story building with 11 bedrooms. Along with shelter, women in need will be offered job counseling, educational opportunities and a rehab program if needed.
"Any given area, on Pass Road especially, there are people that you see coming out of the woods in all different areas. And it's definitely needed because the woods are not a place for people to live," says Mims.
Dan Post from Michigan came to the coast looking for oil spill clean-up work. Those plans didn't work out and he found himself in trouble.
"I was just drinking too much every day and I haven't had a drink since I've been here. I've been getting into the bible and there's just some really good people here," he said.
The men's dorm has been home to Steve Van Alstyne for the past eight months. He credits Gulf Coast Rescue Mission with halting a downhill slide.
"There's no telling. I might be in jail. Or I might have been, might not even be here right now today," said a thankful Van Alstyne.
The vision is to extend such life saving assistance to women facing similar heartaches.
"We don't know what happens after they leave here, but we're just looking and hoping for the best," said Mims.
Gulf Coast Rescue Mission would like to open the women's facility next summer. The ministry is in the process of raising funds for the new shelter. It will cost about $500,000.