Editorials

Let’s explore these ideas to help the Coast’s homeless

Two homeless men sleep in the gazebo at Marshall Park in June 2016. The city is considering a new program to give jobs to homeless people.
Two homeless men sleep in the gazebo at Marshall Park in June 2016. The city is considering a new program to give jobs to homeless people. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

There are some intriguing ideas being floated about how to deal with homelessness.

In Ocean Springs, new Mayor Shea Dobson says he’s willing to consider an idea pitched by his predecessor.

Former Mayor Connie Moran suggested a pilot program where a nonprofit, with help from the city, would offer homeless people a job rather than a handout. It’s happening in Albuquerque, where the city has invested $50,000 and an old van in the program, enlisted a trusted nonprofit organization to handle hiring, insurance and other details, and found an understanding fellow named Will to recruit homeless men and women from street corners.

Ocean Springs could get in the game for $10,000 and an old van, Moran said.

“There are always weeds to pull, litter to pick up,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, who posed two questions for other city officials. “Is there anything left to do in your city? Are your solutions to panhandling working?”

Berry argues that handing $5 to a homeless person out the window of your car wouldn’t have nearly the effect of giving that $5 to a program that would offer that person the chance to have a job, renewed dignity, the opportunity to have a home, and mental health or substance abuse services. The Albuquerque program has helped the state become a leader in combating homeless.

It is clear South Mississippi has not found the solution. For example, only one school district in South Mississippi is taking advantage of a federal program that helps homeless students, students who often live below the radar.

McKinney-Veto Homeless Assistance money has been around since 1987, when President Ronald Reagan signed the similarly named act into law, yet Mississippi received $723,250 in McKinney-Veto grants last year even though it has 7,750 homeless students in the the state’s districts served by the grants.

We know our schools are financially challenged but the homeless students will be much more expensive if they drop out and become adults without the education or training to support themselves. Too many of these students drift in and out of our schools, their teachers unaware they are homeless.

The grants help train school personnel to identify homeless kids and find the help they need.

We urge our school districts to fully investigate this program.

In Gulfport, the Salvation Army has a plan and a location for its program to house the homeless and provide an array of services to help get them on their feet and off the streets.

The Salvation Army brings decades of experience to the table. Now, it appears to have found the right location and one that has room to expand its services.

It has the support of the police and the Planning Commission and we hope the community embraces it as well.

As we’ve said, homelessness is a OneCoast problem and it’s heartening to see our communities considering ways to help homeless people rather than arresting them or chasing them city to city.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

  Comments