When Ben Edward Robinson sang solo in church, everyone listened.
"Ben had a great voice," said the Rev. Al Wallace, who for 12 years pastored at Seashore United Methodist Mission Church, known for helping Biloxi's homeless.
Robinson, 45, was often homeless himself, or lived on the streets or in communal rentals with others who broke the rules of ordered society. Robinson told Wallace he knew he needed to change, and sometimes he worked at it.
"I trusted Ben," said Wallace. "I gave him a room in the parsonage, and he was doing pretty good. He would help me with the church. He spoke up to the other men and women who were there. He'd tell them that they all needed to change."
Robinson disappeared from Seashore a few years ago, the minister eventually left and both lost contact.
Robinson was reared in Pensacola with five brothers and five sisters. Recalled his father: "When he was growing up he was in church but after he got grown he went his own way."
Several months before Katrina, Robinson was back at Seashore Mission.
"He opted to participate in the alcohol program, and he was working on all his problems," said J.D. Matta, retired Coast Guardsman and long-time mission volunteer."Ben was an enlightenment. When you heard him speak, he was, to me, gaining a very positive attitude. He was going to make a difference."
As Katrina headed to Mississippi, Robinson and 11 mission "residents," those who helped with food, clean-up and in the programs, were busy.
"They hauled the other homeless to shelters and they chose to stay," said Matta. "Their idea was to keep looters from coming."
Of the 12 who stayed at Seashore, six died, including Robinson.