Gulfport Police to begin Homeless to Housing Hub surveys

Eight Gulfport police officers have finished training to collect information from the homeless to document their needs for the Homeless to Housing Hub project.
Updated: Sep. 13, 2019 at 5:55 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Feed My Sheep serves 600 meals a day to the homebound and the homeless.

It’s just one of many programs that address issues that lead to homelessness, but until now, there was nothing to connect them.

“I’ve been volunteering here for over 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen all these groups come together with a memorandum of understanding to actually work together,” said David Lion, chairman of the Feed My Sheep board.

That is thanks to the Homeless to Housing Hub project, and the Gulfport Police Department is ready to help make the connections.

Eight officers have finished a two-day training program and are now using a smartphone app, which went online Thursday, to collect information from the unsheltered homeless to document their needs.

“Sometimes there’s a concern why is the police getting information from these individuals,” said Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania. “It’s not for police purposes. It’s ultimately to help better connect these individuals with these resources they may need.”

The information will be handled directly by Open Doors Homeless Coalition.

“We need the help of the police departments,” said Mary Simons, executive director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition. “We need the help of the local governments. We need the help of the local business community and all the stakeholders so that we’re all interconnected because homeless services by ourselves can’t do the job to the scale that is needed.”

There will be follow-ups to make sure progress is being made.

“We’ll know who is living outdoors and what their needs are at the end of this week, but we’ll be updating consistently from now on," Simons said.

Brandon Wyrick is one of the officers who volunteered for the job.

“It goes beyond being an officer,” he said. “It’s more about being a person, and I hope we as people can express our empathy and be able to help someone who’s less fortunate.”

Ken Davis has been homeless for about 15 years.

“The effort of them trying to help those who want they help, I commend it,” he said. “I commend it with open heart. And if I can get off the streets, I’ll take it.”

The Homeless to Housing Hub will meet twice a month.

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