Tupelo takes count of and surveys homeless

Allen Tisdale, outreach navigator for Mississippi United to End Homelessness, leaves a homeless encampment Tuesday after leaving bags of supplies for the residents.

Saints’ Brew was busier than usual Tuesday morning. The mission at All Saints Episcopal Church on Jefferson Street offers free breakfast during the week to the homeless and anyone else who wants a bite to eat. An average of 75 people per day take advantage of the breakfasts. Tuesday, however, was also the day for the Point in Time 2018 survey of the area’s homeless population. About two dozen homeless folks agreed to be interviewed by volunteers from the area and as far away as Memphis. “They’ve been very willing to cooperate,” said Stanley Huddleston, community liaison for the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church near Baldwyn. “I think something good will come out of this.” For their cooperation, the surveyed folks received a bag with blanket, gloves, toboggan, poncho and lotion. They also received a $10 gift card from either Wendy’s, Burger King or Subway. The cards were donated by Huddleston’s church and Tupelo’s Wesley United Methodist Church. The four-page survey asked questions such as where the respondent slept last night; among the choices are “place not meant for human habitation,” “emergency shelter,” “transitional housing for former homeless” and “motel paid by non-profit.” Other questions ranged from the length of time the respondent has been homeless to if they have ever been a victim of domestic violence to whether they have enough money to meet their expenses on a monthly basis. They also answered a battery of questions about their physical and mental health. “We are trying to prevent people becoming homeless,” said Hannah Maharrey, head of the Tupelo Homelessness Task Force. “We have helped 551 families since January 2017.” Thomas White, a member of Saints’ Brew Task Force and a volunteer in the PIT survey, said the help can include payments such as rent and utilities or services like assistance to get on disability, case management and help to find employment. The funds for these come from Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and private donations. Later Tuesday morning, several agency employees made a field survey of homeless encampments. Led by Allen Tisdale, outreach navigator for Mississippi United to End Homelessness, the group approached at least four encampments, most of which were a brief walk from Saints’ Brew. Squalor best defines the living conditions. With the exception of one location, which was inside an abandoned truck trailer, all were exposed to the weather. Discarded trash was common to most encampments. No residents were encountered during the foray. “The process is we go into the camps and offer housing to them,” said Marika Baliko, a MUTEH operative based in Meridian. “There are some who don’t want housing,” Tisdale said. Brandy Gant, assistant to Hannah Maharrey, said last year’s count was 52 homeless in Tupelo. Of course, that number could actually be higher since not all homeless are contacted and some do not agree to be surveyed. This year’s count was not available by the Courier’s press time.

C. Richard Cotton

243 County Road 783

Saltillo, Mississippi 38866

Writer/photographer/editor/author

662.231.6222 mobile

rcotton5@att.net

 

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