Red Cross Closes Gulfport Shelter

Kevin Mitchell stood in a parking lot and vented his frustrations at a Red Cross representative.

"We'll do what we have to do as a community. We will do it," Mitchell said. "Give us a chance to do it and let us show you."

The displaced hurricane victim couldn't understand why the Red Cross was closing the Harrison County Skate Park shelter.

"How can you get ahead, get on your feet and be able to work if you have to live on the streets," he asked.

Guy LePage told Mitchell the Red Cross had no desire to put people back on the streets. But it also had no desire keep shelters open forever.

"We've been open here for nearly two months," LePage said. "Normally, a shelter is open for two weeks."

The skate park shelter became home to 78 hurricane evacuees. Some people lost everything during Katrina. Others were already homeless. The Red Cross provided those people a temporary source of relief.

"Now, we are consolidating our resources and our shelter. And the clients who are still in here are being sent to other shelters," said LePage.

People like Gary Jackson are moving from the Biloxi Gulfport line to either the West Harrison Community Center, or the Woolmarket Community Center.

"Everything has got to shut down pretty soon," Jackson said while smoking a cigarette outside the shelter. "Everybody knew it was inevitable. It was coming."

Kevin Mitchell just didn't know it was coming so soon. As he paced outside the shelter, he complained about only getting 24 hours notice.

"My concern is where is everybody going to go. How are they going to make a living," he said.

The Red Cross spokesman had this response.

"When we tell a client we're consolidating and we're going to move into another shelter, they're getting accommodation," said LePage. "It isn't as if we're leaving them on their own."

Representatives of the Back Bay Mission are concerned at how the closing of this shelter was handled. And they worry about what could happen to some of the homeless people who stayed her the past few weeks. The Back Bay Mission has found alternate living arrangements for 11 homeless people who temporarily called the skate park home.

The remaining Red Cross shelters in Harrison County are at the West Harrison Community Center, Woolmarket Community Center, Good Deeds Community Center and the D'Iberville Civic Center. Jackson County's only Red Cross shelter is at the Gautier Convention Center. And in Hancock County, the Red Cross still has a shelter at Charles B. Murphy Elementary School.