Revelation led to Hayward’s desire to help homeless

Published 9:34 am Monday, March 28, 2016

When Tina Hayward returned home to Vicksburg in 2000, she had a revelation, and it changed her life.

Hayward, a Vicksburg native who joined the Army out of high school and later received a degree in electronics, was working at the Nissan plant in Madison, when she and some friends began a ministry passing out Bibles and tracts to people in the city and holding tent revivals under the name Mountain of Faith Ministries.

It was during that time she received the revelation that led to opening a homeless shelter for women in the Vicksburg/Warren County area.

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“Rose Bingham for We Care was telling me people were sleeping in dumpsters, eating out of dumpsters — homeless women — and they were staying under the bridge and in the bushes; they were living down there,” she said. “That’s when I said, ‘Let me try to investigate this.’

“I had just returned here and I realized there was no place for homeless women and children. There was no permanent place for shelter, and my daughter had encountered a homeless woman. I saw that need, (and) Gene Johnson at the (River City) rescue mission said they could feed them, but they couldn’t keep them — women and children. He motivated me to go through a three-year process (of conferences and workshops) to find out how to open a shelter.”

When she evaluated the community to see if there was a need for a shelter, Hayward said, “I never realized there was that many homeless people here.”

Besides attending workshops and conferences, she worked with state and federal organizations to learn the requirements of opening a shelter.

“In the meantime, the city of Vicksburg and the State of Mississippi donated a house for a homeless shelter, because there was not one here for women,” she said, adding Mountain of Faith advertised for volunteers to get the house ready and opened the shelter.

“It was donated in November 2004, and we opened it up January 2005,” Hayward said. “The first year, we had 99 women and children in the shelter, and from there, we opened up a second shelter, a transitional shelter in 2010, The first shelter can house 24, the second shelter has 32 beds. In 2010, we also opened up the Finders Keepers thrift store, below the shelter.

“We average about 125 to 130 women and children a year. It’s a significant number. It seems like this year is a slight decrease. You don’t think there’s a lot of homeless women and children, but we take them from here and outside Warren County.

Mountain of Faith receives telephone calls from women needing help and referrals from the police and sheriff’s departments and other agencies.

“The first thing we do, if its during hours, we take them to our emergency shelter,” Hayward said. “If it’s after hours, we may put them in a hotel for the night and then we process them in the morning. “What we do first, if it’s in the day, we give them breakfast; we give them meals. The next day, we get them clothes from our thrift store, we also, within three days, we have them apply for food stamps or temporary aid for families, and get them an appointment with the local free clinic and give them a physical to make sure they’re OK.”

The shelter also helps women determine if they need social security benefits and Medicaid,  and assistance for their children.

“We try to tap into all mainstream programs,” Hayward said. “We take them to Warren-Yazoo (Mental Health), if they have mental issues, for an evaluation.”

As the women progress, she said, they attend programs to help them make the transition back to a normal life.

“On Monday, we have computer skills,” she said, “Every Tuesday, we have life skills training. Thursday, we have Bible devotion and Bible study. Every day, we start off with devotion. If there’s an emergency, they get all this care and then we try to help them get a job if they need it.”

If someone has a relative in another city or state they can stay with, she said, the shelter will help them get a bus ticket to get there.

Once a woman gets a job or comes in with income, they can move to Faith House, the transition home, where they can stay for 24 months. The stay at the first, or emergency shelter is 90 days.

“Not everybody moves to the faith house,” Hayward said.  “Some people exit into apartments that we assist them to get. We have a program that gives apartment or housing deposits and the first month rent.”

She said lack of income is not always factor when it comes to being homeless, adding Mountain of Faith will receive calls from women who have been put out of their homes or evicted because they were unable to pay the rent, “Or somebody was living with their grandmother or another relative and had to leave because that person moved or died and they have to move out and have no place to go.

“Sometimes during storms we take them in during emergencies and provide temporary housing.”

Besides her work with Mountain of Faith, Hayward has been a member of the National Homeless Coalition for nine years, and several national homeless organizations working to end homelessness. Locally, she works with the Warren County Disaster Recovery program and the United Way of West Central Mississippi work force team. She said Mountain of Faith is also working with Haven House and the River City Rescue Mission to redevelop a support system among the local agencies that help the homeless and battered women.

One of her goals now is to acquire more permanent housing for the very low income to moderate income families. “There’s not enough housing or apartments,” she said.

“You know, years ago, I thought all homeless people were drug and alcohol people, just hanging out there, but it’s not true; it’s just not true,” she said. “We try to do whatever we can to help put out people’s fires in their life and help them.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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