Mountain of Faith Ministries hopes to determine number of homeless in area

Published 8:07 pm Saturday, January 20, 2018

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the definition of homelessness is “people who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided.”

Thursday, volunteers with Mountain of Faith Ministries will try to find them as part of the annual “Point in Time Count” to determine the number of homeless people in Warren County.

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“This is a program required by HUD to determine funding for programs we use to help the homeless,” said Heather McClung with Mountain of Faith. “The amount of funding we receive depends on the number of homeless in out area. We will be out from 10 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) doing the count.”

According to information from HUD, the agency has awarded $2 billion in grant funds to support local homeless assistance programs across the country. Mississippi received $5.026 million, according to HUD.

Municipal Judge Toni Terrett said the count has been going on locally since 2001. She said the funding allows local agencies to apply for money to help their specific programs for the homeless.

“The data does benefit Mountain of Faith the most since they do the count, but it affects services provided by the continual care of residents throughout the county,” Terrett said.

While the count will involve 15 areas in Warren County where homeless people are known to stay, McClung said, the majority of the homeless are usually found at or near the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, along the Mississippi River, Bowmar Avenue and the downtown area. The 2017 count estimated 175 homeless in the area.

Most of the homeless, McLung said, are single men and women, “But I have seen some families —women and children living in their cars. We usually average about 136 to 150 homeless (per year).”

When volunteers find a homeless person, she said, they ask them several questions — how long have they been homeless, the last time they visited a hospital emergency room, the last time they were hospitalized, if they have spent time in a shelter.

Terrett said most of the homeless people approached for the assessment are cooperative.

“We explain to them what we are doing and why we’re doing the count. We also have a bag of supplies like hygiene items that we give to them.”

Also, Terrett said, the workers doing the count tell the homeless about the programs and shelters like Mountain of Faith, River City Rescue Mission and the Lifting Lives shelter for homeless families.

Mountain of Faith executive director Kimberly Smith said Mountain of Faith staff members involved in the count will undergo training before going out, and volunteers will meet Thursday at 8 a.m. for training before starting the count.

And more volunteers are needed.

“We can always use more volunteers,” Smith said. “Even if someone can come out and work an hour, we can still use them. We will be out from 10 to 5, and Vicksburg police officers will be with us for help and security.”

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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