Some services stretched as more homeless head to Coast

Some services stretched as more homeless head to Coast

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The number of new homeless people on the Coast is growing more than normal, and those on the front lines of helping them aren't sure why. While many agencies are built to last, the influx from outside the region is putting a little extra pressure on services.

Every day it's open, Biloxi's Seashore Mission has been serving about 30 percent more homeless people from outside the Coast since the beginning of summer.

"A lot of times, they're leaving a place where the job situation is bad, so they come here thinking, well, they can get a job here," said the Rev. Judy Longo, pastoral director of Seashore Mission. "And they can, and we do have jobs, it just takes a little longer sometimes than they expect."

That, she says, leads to another major problem.

"The sad thing is when they get here, they take the time to go look for the job," Longo said. "And they run through all the money they have, then they discover we have no shelters."

Irwin Knudson originally came to the Coast from Atlanta for work.

"I'm frustrated. I can't find anything substantial. I can find day work, but I can't find any structured work," Knudson said. "I'm an electrician by trade. I'm a plumber. And not being a local boy is something that's not helping."

Ted Hearn works with Feed My Sheep and the Salvation Army, and sees the impact more with the Salvation Army's Clean and Fresh program that offers showers and laundry services three days a week.

But, the increased number has strained resources and extended service hours.

"When I see them, I ask them what are you doing here? And they say, 'Well, we were told there were jobs here in this area.' And I say, 'Man, you should have stayed where you were; you'd be better off,'" said Hearn.

Penny Clark was once a teacher on the Coast.

"It's not just a lack of jobs. It's the lack of resources," Clark said. "It's just very frustrating because to me. The biggest part of it is being judged by other people that look at you as a bum, and that's not what we are."

Laz Dart, who has been on the Coast his whole life, says the welcome mat to some newcomers can be the door step to nothing.

"Promises of jobs and little bit of better money and there is no money," Dart said. "And there are no jobs. You go to a place, and there's 15 people in line, and there's nothing."

Although there are shelters available for weather related issues, and the Salvation Army in Pascagoula provides emergency shelter and short-term housing for people facing eviction and the homeless, Longo describes the lack of a full-time shelter as inhumane.

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