GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Despite years of planning, a homeless shelter has yet to be built in Gulfport, and frustrations are growing. The shelter would be named the Center of Hope, something many are losing now that construction plans have been stalled.
"We are back at square one trying to build a facility that we can afford to build and also to have some cash to operate," Salvation Army Area Commander Major Gary Sturdivant said.
Even with $4 million in the bank, the original idea to use the old Colonial Bakery on Pass Rd. was shelved by higher-ups at the organization, according to the Major.
"Once we bought it and renovated it, then there's no money available to run the operation," he explained.
The Salvation Army location on Highway 49, now operating as a thrift store, met a similar fate from the city of Gulfport.
"When the final plans went before the Gulfport Planning Commission, they said, 'not in our backyard.' There was a group of about 50 people with some 200 some odd signatures and said, 'We do not want this in our backyard,'" Sturdivant recalled.
This was the same outcome for another location that once housed the Salvation Army before Hurricane Katrina destroyed the building.
"We were ready to break ground on 24th Avenue where we were for decades but that was not the best place for us to be, according to the city of Gulfport," he said.
Even with the setbacks, the need is still there for Sturdivant.
"I'm still concerned about the crises homeless person. The mother living in the car with her children, someone that has been misplaced, under-employed, unemployed that need a hand up," he said.
The next possible step is an expansion at the current building on 22nd Street.
"We're already providing the service here, but we would actually expand the services into offering the housing part of it. We own the block here," Sturdivant explained.
Even with no Center of Hope yet, there is still optimism.
"We're going to figure out a way to make this happen," Sturdivant declared.
If the Salvation Army does agree to expand at its current location, those plans would also have to be approved by the Gulfport Planning Commission. Major Sturdivant doesn't think that will be a problem since that location has already been in operation for many years.
We reached out to the City of Gulfport for a comment on the Salvation Army's efforts to open a homeless shelter.
Public Information Officer Chris Vignes said, "The City of Gulfport has and continues to support the mission of the Salvation Army. We look forward to working with any and all community organizations as they move forward in bettering our Mississippi Gulf Coast."