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Construction at Salvation Army makes cold-weather shelter a challenge

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:54 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Salvation Army is having some growing pains, but they will find a way through it

When the Gulf Coast Salvation Army announced the construction of a transitional housing facility this spring, it was greeted with cheers. But now several months into the project, the group is worried about providing cold-weather shelter for the homeless.

“We are under a tremendous amount of renovations in the original building,” said Maj. Jerry Friday, Mississippi Gulf Coast Salvation Army Area Commander.

The good news is that demand for a cold-weather shelter in Gulfport has been declining the past couple of years. However, there will still likely be a dozen or more homeless people who will need protection when the temperatures drop enough.

Because renovations at the Salvation Army in Gulfport are taking longer than expected, the organization is having to scramble to find a solution.

“We have come up with several little solutions to at least help put a band-aid on the situation, until a permanent fix can be secured,” Friday said.

Supply shortages have delayed renovations of the original building that have left them without a kitchen, bathrooms, shower and laundry facilities. But Friday says they are improvising with vouchers for a local laundromat and a portable shower unit.

Depending on when severely cold weather hits, the Salvation Army may be able to house some people in its building.

“It could possibly be that we have one room that we could at least provide housing,” he said. “If we have to put out port-o-lets or whatever we have to do, we’re going to see if we can’t accommodate a cold-weather shelter.”

Major Friday met last week with other homeless advocates, but they were unable to find a permanent solution to the temporary problem.

“If there is a church or an organization that would be willing to open up, we have volunteers who would come and basically man the operation,” Friday said. “We just need brick and mortar.”

Typically, weather that demands the need for a shelter doesn’t come to South Mississippi until late December through February. Major Friday says he hopes that either construction will be far enough along to allow them to serve, or another structure becomes available.

In addition to the renovations at the original building on 22nd Street, the Center For Hope under construction at the site will provide transitional housing for eight people or families with additional services to help the homeless return to a more productive life.

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