BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They came by the hundreds, looking for something to warm not only their hearts, but their bodies as well. And that's exactly what the Open Doors Coalition provided Tuesday with the fifth annual Project Homeless Connect. Warm clothes were handed out, as well as medical care, haircuts, and even vet services for pets.
Something else is handed out too, according to Alice Graham, an Open Doors Volunteer.
"We want them to know they are a part of the community, that they are not marginalized. The other thing is we want to gather information so that we can provide ongoing services for them in a more efficient way," Graham explained.
The homeless appreciate the gesture. One of them is Thomas Ginn. "Basically, I'm here for some warm clothes and boots and you get a dinner so it's pretty good. It makes your whole day worthwhile," Ginn said.
The giving spirit lifted up many souls. Tina Brewer came to pick up some clothes and personal items.
"Oh, I think it's wonderful. I think they really put their heart and soul out when it comes down to this," Brewer said.
The challenge of helping those who need it most is a big one. Kenney Washington represents the Back Bay Mission.
"I think there's probably 700 people in our community that are currently homeless and what we're trying to do is identify those people and connect they need to change their current situation," Washington said.
Those who work with the homeless every day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast can't really say if the problem is getting worse or better. But what they can say is this: Homelessness can strike at a moment's notice.
Mary Simons is the executive director of the Open Door Coalition.
"We have families who just haven't been able to make it paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they have had a health issue or a car repair, something that has caused ends to not meet and they end up homeless," Simons explained.
Homeless perhaps, but not forgotten.
This year, Project Homeless Connect offered services to 210 people. Organizers also say that 40 pets belonging to the homeless were treated, as well.