Homeless Say Shelter Fee Too Much - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/02/04

Homeless Say Shelter Fee Too Much

Some of South Mississippi's needy residents are accusing the Salvation Army of doing more harm than good. They're complaining that the $55 dollar a week fee at the Gulfport shelter is simply too much. They also claim those who can't pay are being thrown out on the streets.

Although she is homeless, Asia says she cannot reach out to the Salvation Army for help. The reason, she says, is that she doesn't have the cash in hand required to stay at the Gulfport shelter.

"How is that for the homeless people when they expect you to pay money and you're homeless?" said Asia. "You don't have no job. You ain't got nowhere to go."

Several homeless people who stayed at the 24th Avenue Shelter told WLOX news that they or someone they know has been put out for failure to pay.

Lisa says she was asked to leave this past Friday when she didn't have but $30 of the $110 she says she owed.

"It's a business. I understand business. But when you say you're in the business of helping people, taking their money and throwing them out is not helping. It is hurting. It is hurting people."

Staying at the Salvation Army Shelter is free the first seven days. After that there is a service fee.

"Most Salvation Army shelters that I'm aware of do charge some type of fee if they have an extended stay program," said Major Darrell Kingsbury of the Gulfport Salvation Army.

Major Kingsbury says that fee does not cover the costs of housing, utilities, food and other expenses.

The Salvation Army motto is to "Give a hand up and not a hand out." Kingsbury says that doesn't mean that the charity is heartless.

"Just because someone doesn't have money, we do not put them out on the street," said Major Kingsbury."We work with them if they're in the extended stay program, once they have a job and they begin to accept responsibility. Learn the process of being a responsible citizen, paying rent, utilities, mortgage payments, car payments those things that everybody else has to deal with."

Those now living on the streets say the shelter's policies are putting their lives in danger. Kingsbury says people who are put out.. are put out for breaking rules or refusing to do what it takes to better lives.

Again the fee for the shelter's extended stay program is $55 dollars a week or $10 dollars a day. The charge is nothing new. Major Darrell Kingsbury says the Salvation Army was already charging when he arrived seven years ago.

The Salvation Army isn't the only homeless shelter that charges a fee. The Gulf Coast Rescue Mission in Biloxi collects a $5 a night fee for people who do not receive Social Security or Disability.

by Danielle Thomas

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