Survey Targets Homeless In South Mississippi

More than 130 people turn to the Seashore Mission in Biloxi every day for a hot meal and a warm place to stay. This is the last place 49-year-old Dan Norton thought he would end up.

"I went through a divorce and I lost my business and I was put here. The court ordered me to sell my business. My wife and kids moved to Houston, Texas."

The Open Doors Homeless Coalition wants to make sure Norton and every homeless person in South Mississippi is counted.

Roberta Avila with the coalition said, "It helps us capture who is homeless on the Gulf Coast, what their needs are, and what services they need that they aren't receiving".

On Wednesday, 40 volunteers conducted a 24-hour survey at soup kitchens, shelters and missions. They asked personal questions, trying to get to the heart of the homeless problem.

"It's very important to do it every year so that the Open Doors Homeless Coalition can improve the way they deliver services to people who are homeless, to raise awareness about the fact that there is a homeless problem here on the Gulf Coast, and to advocate for people who are homeless."

The survey doesn't just focus on soup kitchens and shelters in South Mississippi. It also includes the homeless who are living outdoors, in hospitals and treatment centers, as well as those who are temporarily staying with family members.

Coalition members hope the survey will lead to more federal funding to help people like Dan Norton get off the street and back on their feet.

"It's not a good feeling. You don't like having to ask other people to help you, but sometimes, it's a necessity just to live."

The survey comes just a day after the Homeless Coalition received a $655,000 HUD grant. The federal funding will pay for support services and permanent housing for the disabled homeless.