A study released by the Open Doors Homeless Coalition, published by Mississippi Public Broadcasting, finds that homelessness has decreased 7% statewide and 28% here on the Coast, but local organizations geared toward helping the homeless say the population has not decreased at all.
Local organizations around the Coast who work hands on with the homeless population are upset by the study out of Jackson that finds homelessness in Mississippi is decreasing. Pamela Baker, the Chairwoman of the Gulf Coast Ministries, says, "We all want to be able to quote percentages or numbers and we feel good when the numbers go down and bad when the numbers go up. I think it’s kinda’ the society we live in." Baker says the 2014 numbers are off the mark because the majority of our homeless population is out of plain sight, not on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign. Baker also says, "If you pass a patch of woods or a wooded area anywhere along the Coast, the chances are very good that there’s going to be a camp for homeless already in that little area." Shepard of the Gulf, Lynda Favre, enters the camps regularly, bringing the homeless supplies. She was a part of the study and thinks it was not conducted thoroughly. Favre says, "You gotta’ have a little time to go out there and get the numbers, but you can't do it all in one day."
Even though the study’s findings were off, Favre is still fighting to make them a reality. She has teamed up with Disability Connection to find jobs for the homeless. Favre also says, "All of them that I talked to were thrilled. Wow, help is finally here. We might get connected to a job and get out of the woods and into an apartment or house. It was awesome, just awesome, giving them hope, that’s what we're doing, giving them hope."
Although Baker and Favre disagree with the study's claim of a decreasing homeless population on the Coast, they believe there is hope and that their efforts are making a difference, one step at a time.