Jackson County

Ministry for homeless in Ocean Springs loses home

The Living Well Ministry day center provided food and a place for the homeless in Ocean Springs to clean up, get new clothes and receive much-needed counseling.
The Living Well Ministry day center provided food and a place for the homeless in Ocean Springs to clean up, get new clothes and receive much-needed counseling.

The Living Well Ministry day center for the homeless is without a home.

The program functioned for two years in the 2800 block of Government Street and closed in mid-December when the building was sold. It is looking for a home while still trying to minister to the homeless in the city.

The day center offered homeless men, women and families a place to go two days a week for breakfast, a hair cut and a shower. It offered access to computers and Wi-Fi, job counseling, help with medical issues and medicine, and help getting Social Security and veterans benefits. It offered new clothes and shoes and access to a washing machine.

By early November, it estimated to have served 379 people and 2,600 meals, provided 1,540 showers and washed 1,354 loads of laundry over two years.

It was a way to help people without a home function better. The only thing it needed was more parking spaces along Government, because homeless families living in their cars would drive to the center.

The ministry is a way to let the homeless know that “some of us do care,” said the Rev. Elijah Mitchell of St. Paul United Methodist Church.

A group of more than a dozen churches and businesses supported the day center with donations of money, time and food. The churches included First Baptist of Vancleave and First Presbyterian, Mosaic and Elizabeth Seton of Ocean Springs. Ocean Springs businesses included La Casita, Lynchburg Landing, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Rouses.

But the center is now officially homeless itself.

It did serve meals to the homeless at the library around Christmas and at Fort Maurepas Park on Front Beach on Christmas Day.

And last weekend, when the city attorney decided the city should not use the Civic Center as a cold-weather shelter because of a possible liability, the new owners of the day center building allowed the ministry to use it one more time as a shelter.

When the Sun Herald interviewed Mitchell on Tuesday, he had just finished cleaning up the building to turn back over to the new owners.

On its Facebook page, the ministry listed the numbers served just during the weekend cold snap and thanked the Red Cross for providing cots and blankets on short notice.

Closing the shelter is coming at a time when the city is also wrestling with the issue of homeless living in Marshall Park and sleeping on benches at the entrance to the city near the popular downtown shopping area.

The city has limited the hours the city park is open, removed benches from in front of the library and added seat dividers to the bus stop benches in an effort to keep the homeless from loitering in the area, especially at night.

There are people in need in Ocean Springs, Living Well said on its Facebook page. Mayor Connie Moran held meetings with representatives in the days before the weekend freeze and tried to help, Mitchell said.

But overall, he said, the city needs to come out of denial about the homeless issue.

For the cold snap alone:

▪ 63 people signed in for help

▪ 80 meals were served with snacks available at all times

▪ 51 slept over

▪ 20 took showers

▪ 295 volunteer hours were logged

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