Homeless Shelter Destroyed, Leaders Vow to Rebuild

Just months before the Hurricane, the Interfaith Hospitality Network building had undergone some major renovations, making the Biloxi building feel more like home for the homeless families who stayed there until they could get back on their feet.

Then Katrina came crashing through.

The storm may have caused quite a bit of damage, but it hasn't washed out the vision or mission of this non-profit organization that helps the homeless.

"Coming into the building, you can see where the water line is, right here. I'm 5' 3", and it's over my head," said Debra Melton of the Interfaith Hospitality Network.

For the past three years, the building has been a haven for homeless families in South Mississippi.

In the span of just a few hours, Katrina would turn everything upside down.

"Everything looked like a tornado came in here. All the desks were swirled around, on top of each other. Our computers were in a pile," Melton said.

This building has served as a haven for more than 100 homeless families in the area.

Not long after the storm, Interfaith leaders discovered this building wasn't fit to house anyone.

"When I came in here, my husband had to pry the door off, and it smelled like alcohol in here, and already the mold on the furniture was about an inch long and it was hairy," Melton said.

Eventually, the building will be bulldozed, but Interfaith leaders plan to rebuild and are eyeing a building west of here for their new site

"We're going to need a lot of help. We need funders, we need the community's support and the support of the social service agencies that we've worked with in the past," Melton said.

Interfaith leaders know they're facing an uphill battle, but it's one they're anxious to take on, especially now that their mission to house the homeless has become even more urgent in the aftermath of Katrina.

"It really is enough to break your heart, and to know that there are so many families out there that need us now and we're homeless ourselves," Melton said.

If you'd like to help out or make a donation, call the Interfaith Hospitality Network at 432-7947.