Back Bay Mission addresses homelessness rise with town hall meeting

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The community gathered at Back Bay Mission’s town hall meeting to find the best answers to address homelessness.

Director of Client Services Sarah Smith said Back Bay Mission have received a wave of calls from concerned citizens about the homeless population rising.

“We get hundreds of calls a day, even utility assistance needing help. If you have to pick between feeding your family or paying your electric, it’s a really hard choice to make,” Smith said.

Smith said they’re seeing a different demographic of homeless people, mainly from the rise of rent and inflation.

During the meeting, people got to share their experience with the homeless, like Stephn Dummer, a member of The Dummer Law Group, PLLC.

“My buildings have been defecated on. I’ve had friends who had buildings defecated on. I’ve had homeless people enter my buildings,” Dummer said.

People, like Tracey Lupon, also shared their stories about being homeless.

She said she became homeless from a work injury, is now recovering from addiction and lost her kids to foster care.

“Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of love of people, not money. There’s a lot of things you can do to fix it, but if you don’t fix what’s actually causing the problem, nothing is ever going to change,” Lupon said.

Folks at the meeting who want change, like Mercy Housing Executive Director Julie Egressy, asked what’s the plan.

“We have different levels of homelessness, and I would like to know what the plan is, and I’m an agency. I still don’t know the plan,” Egressy said.

A panel full of executives of vital resources reassured the public they’re working to enhance outreach teams, housing programs and mental health services to help close the gap.

Executive Director of Back Bay Mission James Pinnington said it’s important to not only help the homeless but humanize them as well.

“When you see someone that appears homeless, I think the best thing you can do is stop, take a moment look into their eyes, and acknowledge they’re human and smile,” Pinnington said.

Officials said as community, organizations were able to house 650 people within the last year.

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