The Salvation Army is embarking on a building campaign planned before Hurricane Katrina with a new campus on U.S. 49 for its thrift store, transitional housing for people who have fallen on hard times, and a cold-weather shelter with a laundry and showers.
The campus will not have a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Instead, a new $4.5 million Center of Hope will house men, women and families short term, and only if they are working toward steady incomes, either through jobs or disability benefits.
“This is going to make a huge impact for years to come,” said Maj. Gary Sturdivant of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command. “It’s going to make a huge difference.”
The city rejected The Salvation Army’s plans to build on property in downtown Gulfport, so the nonprofit organization bought 5.2 acres for $1.2 million on the highway. Sturdivant said the city has been supportive of construction there. Mayor Billy Hewes was unavailable to comment.
Two metal buildings sit on the property. The Salvation Army already has started a $400,000 renovation on the larger, 6,000-square-foot building where its Family Store, a thrift store, will go. The current store is in a smaller building across the street.
Sturdivant said the thrift store should open this summer. When it is completed, he said renovations will begin on the second metal building, where a Fresh and Clean Center will be.
At the center, homeless people will be able to launder clothes, shower and spend the night when temperatures are 40 degrees or below. The center will have 50 to 60 bunk beds, about the same number now available at the Salvation Army’s makeshift cold-weather shelter on 22nd Street.
Sturdivant said a property leader for the Salvation Army will visit next week to discuss plans for the Center of Hope, including where on the property it should be built.
The center is the most ambitious project planned. It will provide transitional housing, but anyone staying there must demonstrate they are either looking for a job or applying for disability benefits. The Salvation Army has signed up partners to work with its transitional-housing program, including the state’s WIN Job Center, the state Department of Human Services and mental health services.
“We just hope when (clients) leave us they have all the tools to be successful to reintroducing themselves to society, with the probability of not returning to the life of homelessness,” Sturdivant said.
Other partners also are expected to come aboard. And the Salvation Army has an array of classes, such as financial planning and resume writing, that will assist clients in the quest for permanent housing.
“When this Center for Hope opens up, it’s going to create a whole new dynamic of veterans’ programs that we will be working with,” Sturdivant said. “I have reached out to the homeless representative for the VA, but we haven’t set up a meeting yet.”
The Center of Hope will be a three-story building with offices, a dining room and a chapel on the first floor. Single men and women will be segregated by floor on the second and third floors, and families will be housed on both the second and third floors. Family units will each include bathrooms and will be separated from singles housing.
How to help
The Salvation Army of the Mississippi Gulf Coast has a building fund to raise money for construction on its U.S. 49 campus. You can mail a check, marked for the building fund, to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 208, Biloxi MS 39533. Or drop off a check at any Salvation Army location on the Coast. General donations to support The Salvation Army’s mission can be made online.
The Salvation Army also needs nonperishable food for its food pantry. Canned items should have pull-tab openings.
Items can be dropped off for the food pantry at the office at 2019 22nd St. in Gulfport.
- Cheese or peanut-butter snack crackers
- Beef jerky
- Pudding cups
- Fruit cups
- Granola bars
- Power bars
- Cereal bars
- Single-serving Chef Boyardee, Ravioli and SpaghettiO’s
- Single-serving soup
- Tomato juice
- Fruit snacks
- Plastic spoons
- Vienna sausage
- Individual packets of oatmeal
- Canned or bagged tuna