Mayor's Task Force Unveils Plan to Fight Homelessness

Biloxi mayor A.J. Holloway has answered HUD's call for communities to fight homelessness by forming a Task Force. Monday night, the task force released its first draft of an action plan. At the meeting, findings from a coordinated survey were also unveiled.

According to a survey that was conducted in January, 422 homeless people were living in Biloxi. Task force members say they estimate the total number of homeless on the entire coast to be three times that number, with more than 1,200 homeless people.

"Some of the ideas and strategies that were proposed by the task force included finding options to increase child care facilities, building a multi-purpose center in Biloxi, and increasing public transportation in Biloxi," said Task Force member Vicki McDonald.

After the task force suggested a few approaches, the public gave their input.

"And the biggest complaint that I find is number one, they don't know where there are any beds for them to go to," said Biloxi resident Rick Bieniak.

One homeless man asked the task force to address police procedures regarding the homeless in the area. "Four police officers came up to me and my friends, and told us that this was a public beach, that it was for the tourists only that we weren't allowed to associate down there... If it's a public beach, aren't we part of the public, too?" he asked.

Another homeless man offered a solution to what he calls a lack of affordable housing in the area. "I see buildings that are evacuated, that are shut down. Why not turn them into apartments?"

Task force members say they plan to take comments from the meeting and implement them in their plan.