Jackson community service group uses COVID-19 relief money to help homeless find permanent housing

Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Finding permanent housing can be difficult for anyone but especially for those coming off of the streets.

Stewpot Community Services in Jackson is using CARES Act or COVID-19 relief money to make that process a little easier for the city’s homeless population.

Stewpot’s shelters serve about 800 homeless people in the city per year. The group’s executive director, Jill Buckley, said a number of them want a permanent residence but need help navigating the process.

It’s a task that she said was made more difficult during the pandemic, especially as a number of businesses went into lockdown.

“One of the big speed bumps is finding all of the documentation that you need in order to just even apply,” Buckley said. “For people who are not originally from Mississippi, getting their identifications and birth certificates and all that stuff together has been enormously difficult.”

It’s a process that the group aims to make easier in two ways.

One is by connecting some of the city’s homeless with case managers that help track down that documentation, and the other is by using COVID-19 relief money to put them up in hotels temporarily.

“They’re not having to sleep on the street at night or in their cars. So it’s filling that gap with a temporary transitional shelter for people who are on their way to housing,” Buckley said. “That way, they don’t have to spend every night trying to figure out where they’re going to go.”

She said the pandemic is what really exposed 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’s all contributed to the problem,” she said. “Our shelter system lost half of its beds during the pandemic because of spacing, making sure people were far enough apart so that they didn’t infect each other.”

In fact, Buckley said local shelters are struggling to keep up.

“Shower Power has been really key in helping to put people up and find places for them to go, Salvation Army has maxed itself out, Gateway has maxed itself out, and Stewpot has maxed itself out,” Buckley said.

This effort started on January 1, 2022, and it’s a collaboration between Stewpot and the Central Mississippi Continuum of Care.

Buckley said they currently have twenty transitional housing rooms reserved but that the number varies depending on whether they’re helping families or individuals.

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