JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Thursday night a canopy of lights came on at Smith Park, a place that has been in the center of controversy surrounding the city’s homeless population.
But the lights were welcoming.
Officials said they’re on a sensor that turns them on when the sun goes down and off when the sun comes up. Downtown Jackson Partners president John Gomez said the aim is to make Smith Park a more welcoming place not just for the homeless that are there regularly, but eventually for groups who are there for events of all kinds.
It was fitting to some that the lights came on the same night the Downtown partners annouced their new Homeless Outreach Program.
“We’re taking positive steps to particularly deal with homelessness downtown because all of those people are part of the fiber of Jackson,” said Bishop Ronnie Crudup.
The Homeless Outreach Project brings in a liaison between the homeless, the Downtown Jackson Partners, and the City of Jackson.
“The outreach worker program to help the homeless in downtown to connect them to services they need to get them off the streets,” said Gomez.
Stewpot Ministries director Jill Buckley said the program establishes the liaison as someone “that can come to people where they are, engage them and befriend them where they are and connect them to resources, really helps us to expand.”
Tommie Brown is that Community Outreach Worker for Stewpot Ministries. He says that the plan is not, as has been discussed before, for the homeless to be moved out of the park.
“The conversations that we have had have been along the lines of coexistence versus ‘us or them,’” he said. “They can still continue to enjoy this alongside of -- that’s the key -- alongside of other residents in the downtown area.”