Mississippians without a home have had a more difficult time than residents from many other states in the same circumstances because there wasn't a centralized organization that could coordinate services and resources between communities. Hope arrived on March 26, when the state legislature passed into law the creation of the Mississippi Interagency Council on Homelessness. The new entity will establish, develop and implement a plan to reduce homelessness that includes a strong focus on the needs of homeless children, youth and families, as well as individuals and veterans who are homeless.
One of the key elements of the new law is the fact that it will engage state agencies and service providers to the same table to discuss important issues that may prevent homelessness episodes and will ensure the best use of the state's limited resources to serve those in need.
The council Includes representatives from the Governor's office; all relevant state government agencies; state legislators; federal, county and community officials; Continuum of Care representatives; homeless education liaisons; homeless shelter and service providers; representatives of domestic violence, child, and youth focused organizations; and parents, youth, individuals, and veterans who have experienced homelessness throughout the state.
According to the latest homeless count, in 2012 a total of 783 homeless individuals were counted in the five-county metro area surrounding Jackson. Hinds County has most of the persons in need with 648 persons, or almost 83% of the total homeless population accounted for in this region. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, indicates that a person is considered homeless when: "lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence; and... has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations... (B) An institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or (C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings."
According to the Bill (482) that was presented to create the Council, many families in Mississippi are at risk of becoming homeless with increasing unemployment and the high cost of a two-bedroom apartment, which makes it difficult for a person earning minimum wage to afford housing at a fair market rate. Read the Bill
"The Interagency Council on Homelessness is an indication of Mississippi's progress in adopting federal best practices and developing a more comprehensive resolution for homelessness," said Shelley Johnson, Executive Director, Mississippi Partners to End Homeless Continuum of Care. "We must not manage homelessness, but end it. This means looking at root causes, acting in a proactive manner for those most at risk, and providing housing options for those most difficult to house. Adopting a new housing philosophy, Housing First, will allow us to assist those who rarely access services by eliminating the barriers that limit access to safety and security of housing."
If you are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or know someone that is homeless, help is available. HUD, along with many other Federal agencies, funds programs to help persons who are homeless. Local homeless assistance agencies provide a range of services and assistance, including emergency shelter, food, housing counseling, and job training and placement assistance. Click here for information on available resources in Mississippi. For detailed information on national resources go to: Homelessness Resource Exchange.