Coast Churches Network To Help Homeless Families - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

LENDING A HELPING HAND

Coast Churches Network To Help Homeless Families

A network aimed at helping homeless families along the coast is gathering support from church congregations and social service agencies.

The "Interfaith Hospitality Network" has been used successfully in other communities. The program involves local churches providing shelter and meals on a rotating basis, while social service agencies assist with finding jobs and permanent housing.

Organizers say there's a growing need for such a service.

Beach comfort stations are frequent hangouts for the homeless along the coast. Facilities with showers and rest rooms are attractive to someone with no place to call home.

The comfort station at the lighthouse is where we met Larry Davidson. The homeless traveler told us the hospitality network sounds like a good idea.

Larry is alone. But a growing number of homeless are families.

"The need is very evident here on the coast. We here at Back Bay and some of our sister agencies provide direct services to a lot of homeless folks," said Brian Lake of Back Bay Mission.

"Here on the coast, I myself have worked with homeless families who just appear with all their belongings in their car and look for a place to stay," Morgan Gordy said.

That's why she's excited about this new cooperative effort between churches. Congregations will provide homeless families meals and a place to sleep.

"Families will stay there during the evening and have an evening meal and breakfast. Then during the day they are transported to the day center where they will be assisted by a case worker who will help them locate permanent housing and work toward getting on their feet again."

A homeless family faced with the prospect of spending the night under a bridge, could instead benefit from the safety and shelter of a church. Those involved with the program say it's not so much a hand out as it is a helping hand.

"I think the most exciting piece of this is that congregations and agencies are really working together cooperatively to address this issue," Jill Harkins said. "We're each bringing our own piece to the table. Neither of us is really doing a ton of stuff on our own, but together we are making a major difference."

More than a dozen church congregations along the coast have agreed to participate in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. Organizers plan to begin offering services on October 1st.

The Back Bay Mission is still in need of volunteers and donations and support from churches. You can get more information by calling them at 432-0301.

By Steve Phillips

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