Biloxi nonprofit hosts free resource fair for homeless people

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Governor Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that Mississippi is soon opting out of a federal program that helps pay rent and utility bills. But that doesn’t mean the need isn’t there. One outreach group in Biloxi said its phones have been ringing off the hook lately with people searching for rental and utility assistance.

To help meet the ongoing need, Back Bay Mission hosted a resource fair for the homeless community Wednesday morning. It was a one-stop-shop for those without transportation and access to services they need.

“We really want to give people a hand up, not a handout,” Executive Director James Pennington told WLOX.

Programs from across the state came together to serve the unsheltered. They included Mississippi Access to Care, Medicaid, State Health Insurance, Veterans Affairs, and the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority.

“With all these folks here today, it really reminds us that it takes a village to create systemic change,” Pennington said. “There’s so many barriers to getting employment. If you don’t have an ID, you don’t have a birth certificate, you have nothing that identifies who you are, right? You don’t have a home.”

The non-profit is also seeing a “huge spike” right now in families with children visiting its food pantry and drop-in day center. Pennington points to the current economy.

Felicia Etheridge and Martin Henry are two of many who showed up for the free information and giveaways.

“One might be hungry and somebody might not have nothing to eat that night, and it’s really rough right now at Back Bay Mission,” Etheridge said.

“It really is terrible on homeless people right now, so I agree with that,” Henry added.

Andrew McIntosh cried as he took the time to thank his own case manager for helping guide him off the streets.

“We don’t find too many people in the community to do stuff like this,” he said. “They put the paperwork in, and it takes time to come back. But they do they job. Cause if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have nobody like, good people like this to come down and help us.”

“We’re here to give hope back to a lot of people that have not a lot of hope left,” Back Bay outreach and case manager Sarah Smith said.

If you need rental and/or utility assistance, the Open Doors Homeless Coalition can help. The number to dial is (228) 604-2048.

Applications for the Rental Assistance for Mississippians program will no longer be accepted after Aug. 15. This will not impact those who have applied prior to Aug. 3.

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