BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich was honored at the White House last year for helping eliminate homelessness among veterans on the Coast.
Now, the mayor wants to tackle that issue on a larger scale.
Though it's very much in the early stages, his plan calls for converting the old Beauvoir Elementary school building in Biloxi into a service center and shelter for homeless families or individuals.
"What we want to do is try and link them up with the services that are available now. We think having a centralized location will help make that happen," said city spokesman, Vincent Creel.
And while plans include locating an overnight shelter for the homeless at the former school, Creel says the main focus will be getting families the help they need to transition to permanent housing.
"Let's be clear. We're not looking to run a shelter out here where we're going to have people long term. What we're looking to do is assess the immediate needs of people and put them in the places they need to be," Creel explained.
The Gulf Coast Rescue Mission has ministered to the homeless for decades. Still recovering from a fire last year, a new dormitory is about to be built in its place.
But the mission provides housing for men only.
"There's a need out there. There's a lot of folk that are living in the woods and a lot of folk that don't have a place to stay. My heart goes out to the families with the children. There's just no place for them to go," said mission director, Rev. Tom Mims.
The need for a family shelter is echoed by the homeless advocates at Back Bay Mission.
"The only shelter around is 30 miles away, which is located in Pascagoula. So I think that it would make a major impact with the homeless community," said Kenney Washington, with Back Bay Mission.
WLOX News Now spoke with two of the nearby home owners who live across the street from the school property who say they are concerned about the safety of the neighborhood kids should a homeless shelter locate to the area.
"This is not something we want anyone to get alarmed about, this is only the first step so that we can have a central assessment and processing location," said Creel.
The first step for the city is getting a lease agreement with the Biloxi school district. That item is on next Tuesday's city council agenda.
The lease would also require the approval of the Biloxi school board.