Group counting homeless in Mississippi

By The Associated Press

MERIDIAN — Officials with Jackson-based Mississippi United to End Homelessness are working with agencies throughout the state this week to get a more accurate count of the number of people who don’t have a home.

The group hopes to wrap up the work by Saturday.

MUTEH official Reginald Glenn tells WTOK-TV in Meridian that the last count was done two years ago. It included numbers gathered from 71 of the state’s 82 counties.

“We know that there are not just homeless pockets in larger populated areas,” said Glenn. “We know that there are people experiencing homelessness, even in small rural counties; that homelessness may include a family sleeping on another family member’s couch. It could be someone who’s just going from place to place asking for a meal and for a bed for the night or staying temporarily in a hotel.”

Since the recession first hit in 2008, Glenn said Mississippi’s homeless population has increased. Thanks to grant money, he says assistance has been provided since that time to help 5,000 Mississippi families retain or secure housing.

“We’re not only trying to help keep people from experiencing homelessness, but we’re also getting people from homelessness, back into shelters and housing services,” Glenn said.

According to the last survey in 2011 just over 2,300 people in Mississippi were homeless. Of those, 1,056 were living in a shelter of some sort, and more than 1200 were not living in a shelter.

As part of the counting effort, homeless individuals filled out questionnaires and were given a special key, or jump drive, that contains information about where they can find local resources. Public libraries, various organizations and some shelters have computers available.

Glenn and others said the problem of homelessness is bigger in Mississippi than many may think.