JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Finding permanent housing can be difficult for anyone, but especially for those coming off the street.
Stewpot Community Services in Jackson uses the CARES Act or COVID-19 relief money to make the process a little easier for the city’s homeless population.
Stewpot’s shelters serve about 800 homeless people in the city each year. The group’s CEO, Jill Buckley, said a number of them want permanent housing but need help navigating the process.
It is a task that she said was made more difficult during the pandemic, especially when a number of companies went into blockade.
“One of the big speed bumps is finding all the documentation you need to just apply,” Buckley said. “For people who are not originally from the Mississippi, it has been tremendously difficult to get their identification and birth certificate and all that.”
It is a process that the group wants to make easier in two ways.
One is connecting some of the city’s homeless with caseworkers who help track that documentation, and the other is using COVID-19 relief money to temporarily place them in hotels.
“They do not have to sleep on the street at night or in their cars. So that fills that gap with a temporary transitional home for people on their way to housing,” Buckley said. “That way, they do not have to spend every night to find out where they are going. “
She said the pandemic is what really revealed the need for a program like this. Not only did it lead to more people living on the streets, but it also forced homeless shelters to reduce the number of those it served at the exact same time.
“People have less money, less stability, higher degrees of addiction, higher degrees of untreated mental illness, and that has all contributed to the problem,” she said. “Our shelter lost half of its beds during the pandemic due to distance and made sure people were far enough apart so they did not infect each other.”
In fact, Buckley said local shelters are struggling to keep up.
“Shower Power has really been the key to helping people set up and find places they can go, the Salvation Army has maximized itself, Gateway has maximized itself, and Stewpot has maximized itself,” Buckley said.
This effort started on January 1, 2022, and is a collaboration between Stewpot and the Central Mississippi Continuum of Care.
Buckley said they currently have twenty temporary homes reserved, but that the number varies depending on whether they are helping families or individuals.
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