Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and his wife, Serena, are in Washington, invited by first lady Michelle Obama to a ceremony Monday at the White House.
Gilich and a handful of other U.S. mayors will be honored for their efforts to help end homelessness among veterans in their communities.
The invitation from the first lady to Gilich and his wife arrived in October, said Vincent Creel, public relations manager for Biloxi. The Giliches paid the expenses for Serena to join her husband on the trip.
The Giliches and two grandchildren vacationed in Washington three years ago and did the public tour of the White House, Creel said. This time they will get a personal welcome.
Gilich and Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes also were honored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and on New Year’s Eve received a call from Julian Castro, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, congratulating the mayors for effectively ending homelessness among veterans.
Matthew Doherty, executive director of the National Council on Homelessness, said Gulfport and Biloxi put in place programs that have the capacity and resources to assist veterans in obtaining and maintaining housing stability.
In 2015, about 250 homeless veterans across South Mississippi were moved into housing and a stable environment.
“This effort has been a team effort,” Gilich said. He cited partnerships with the Biloxi Veterans Administration, the Biloxi Housing Authority, the Mississippi Housing Authority Region VIII in Gulfport, and community partners that include Oak Arbor, Hancock Resource Center and Voices of Calvary Ministries, who have received federal funds to assist veterans and their families across the Coast.
“While every housing crisis among veterans and their families cannot be prevented, we have the systems in place across the Gulf Coast to assure that veterans who need affordable housing and services will be linked to the resources to ensure that any bout of homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring,” said Mary Simons, executive director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition.