Salvation Army expresses doubt on declining homeless numbers

Salvation Army expresses doubt on declining homeless numbers
HUD says our state reported 1,472 people who experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There are fewer people homeless Mississippi than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

However, those who regularly work with the homeless community on the coast are saying that count may not be accurate.

Maj. Gary Sturdivant, with the Salvation Army, said HUD's reports are skewed due to some of the homeless not wanting to be found.

"Some of them love where they are. I have gone into homeless camps. Some are booby trapped with wires and cords, and you have to climb in. Some people want to live in that situation and don't want anyone bothering them," said Sturdivant.

HUD says our state reported 1,472 people who experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017. That number is influenced by data from surveys, schools, and a one night snapshot by volunteers.

Those figures demonstrate a 15 percent decrease.

"They do a count every year about the homeless. They come here and interview. They go through the community interviewing people. Some people never find the homeless, they would never speak," Sturdivant said.

According to HUD, their estimates on homelessness are based on information given to them from thousands of cities nationwide.

Data is also influenced by volunteers with a planning agency called Continuums of Care. The agency picks one night in January to seek the number of individuals and families living in shelters, housing programs, and unsheltered settings.

HUD is also reporting that homelessness among veterans has declined by 60 percent since last year.

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