Homeless to Housing Hub assisting those in need

Updated: Jan. 24, 2020 at 2:09 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s called the Homeless to Housing Hub, and area leaders said it’s been successful in helping to decrease the number of homeless people in South Mississippi. The strategy behind the idea was discussed Friday at the Gulfport Reports event hosted by the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce.

Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said when he retires from law enforcement, his next challenge is to continue working to get those in need off the streets the right way.

He said in the past, it was a vicious cycle.

"The way we addressed homelessness, I’d say to an officer, ‘We’re getting complaints. Go find a charge, get them off the streets.' So, the question we must ask ourselves is what are we going to do about it? And there are answers,” Papania said.

The Homeless to Housing Hub is a system where local police identify homeless individuals, get their names and locations and enter them into a database.

"We then have a team of outreach workers that go out and speak to people and start to build trust, see what their goals are, their needs are. Our job is to help them come to a resolution. For most people, that resolution is housing,” said Mary Simons with the Open Door Homeless Coalition.

In about five months, they’ve identified 182 homeless people in and around Gulfport. So far, 58 of them have been housed, 53 have self-resolved or left, and 38 are receiving services but aren’t yet housed.

"What we do with our outreach is ask a lot of questions and reflect back to the person on what it is they want to do,” Simons added.

That’s where corporate partnerships and nonprofit organizations come in, organizations like Goodwill, which has stores on the Coast with some employees that used to be homeless.

“Once those individuals are on a solid foundation, we continue the job training, and then we move forward with employment,” said Richmond Vincent, Goodwill of South Mississippi President and CEO. “We provide the jobs to help prevent them from going back to being homeless.”

That’s the key. They said so far, the results are promising.

"They need a home base with which to make some decisions,” Simons said.

Partners in the program include Feed My sheep, Open Doors Homeless Coalition, the Salvation Army, Goodwill and the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.

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