Project Safe Space program helps the homeless

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A ministry of the United Methodist Church is reaching out to the homeless in Biloxi. El Pueblo which means "the village" in Spanish offers a variety of social services from its office on Judge Sekul Avenue. The program called Project Safe Space is helping meet a growing need by providing some basic necessities for people without a home.

There is a homeless challenge on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, especially right here in Biloxi. On this chilly night near downtown Biloxi youth from an Ocean Springs church group help serve a holiday meal to the homeless and hungry. Reverend Sally Bevill said, "Here we have Safe Space on Mondays and Thursdays. And we are planning a new church as well, so we worship on Sundays and do Bible study on Monday nights and try to help people transition off the street."

Sandra Codella, a Biloxi resident, appreciates the ministry offered by El Pueblo. Until recently she was among the coast homeless population. "When I became homeless, I was 61 years old. I was handicapped. I ride a handicap scooter. And that's what I lived on. And I was on the street for about six months," Codella said.

She now volunteers at El Pueblo's Safe Space program assisting others with the helping hand she was provided and so many others are seeking. "Very few of us choose to end up homeless. And when they do, it's a major shock. They can't believe it's happened to them. And it takes awhile to get used to it and adjust. To learn to get along," Codella said.

Americorps worker Leah Lyman said, "There are a few places to get meals, but there's really no place to have a community and that's what we try to offer here, is really a space for hospitality. For people who are always ignored on the street, to feel like they're real people, like we're listening to their stories and we care about them. Cause we do," Lyman said.

Safe Space at El Pueblo wants to continue serving those in need while helping erase all too common stereotypes. Bevill said, "I think the challenge here is for people not to judge the homeless or stereotype them. Because many of them are working poor, have not been able to get affordable housing since Katrina."

El Pueblo welcomes your support. They could use volunteers along with donations of food or warm clothing. You can contact the ministry at (228) 436-3986.