By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Since the Salvation Army set up its North Mississippi headquarters in Tupelo more than 40 years ago, the Army’s lodge has held 19 beds, 13 in the men’s quarters and six in the women’s.
In January, however, the facilities were pressed to hold 26 residents, including children, prompting the Army to set in motion plans for expanding the lodge.
“Originally the lodge was meant for people passing through, but now it has become more residential, as the homeless community in Tupelo has grown,” said Major Sue Dorman, senior officer of the Army in North Mississippi.
Now the lodge serves as a home base for those in need to get back on their feet. Once the Salvation Army runs a background check, residents are assigned a bed under the condition they search for a job.
The Army assists them in acquiring proper clothing, hygiene, crafting a resume, and even completing the GED. Dorman said once they start earning an income, the Army helps them transition to independence.
To accommodate the growing need, the Army contemplated expanding their existing facilities, but found it would cost virtually the same to build an additional building.
“Our biggest need is for family rooms,” Dorman said. “If a father comes in with a 15-year-old daughter, she can’t stay in the men’s quarters and she can’t stay in the women’s quarters because she isn’t 18. The same goes for a mother with a male child.”
Dorman said she hoped enough support could be garnered to allow for facilities with room for 40 men and 40 women in addition to the family rooms.
She said the new shelter would total over $600,000. The Army already has a $100,000 head start from selling its old recreational facility to the city’s Police Athletic League. In his State of the City speech on Feb. 6, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. challenged the community to help the Army raise the remaining $500,000.
Dorman said the project is in its feasibility stage, meaning the community is being gauged to determine if Tupelo could financially support the project. Once this phase is complete, a timeline can be established for the completion of the project, which Dorman hopes will begin in early May.