Community service

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

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Finding permanent housing can be difficult for everyone, but especially for those who are coming off the streets.

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

Stewpot’s shelters serve approximately 800 homeless people in the city per year. The group’s executive director, Jill Buckley, said a number of them wanted permanent residency but needed help navigating the process.

It’s a task she says has been made more difficult during the pandemic, especially as a number of businesses have been put on lockdown.

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

It’s a process the group aims to facilitate in two ways.

One is to connect some of the city’s homeless people with case managers who help track down this documentation, and the other is to use COVID-19 relief money to temporarily house them in hotels. .

“They don’t have to sleep on the streets at night or in their car. So it fills 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 all night trying to figure out where they’re going.”

She said the pandemic is what really revealed the need for a program like this. Not only did this lead to more people living on the streets, but it also forced homeless shelters to reduce the number of those they were serving at the exact same time.

“People have less money, less stability, higher degrees of addiction, higher degrees of untreated mental illness, and all of that has contributed to the problem,” she said. “Our shelter system has lost half of its beds during the pandemic due to spacing, ensuring people are far enough apart that they don’t infect each other.”

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

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

This effort began on January 1, 2022, and is a collaboration between Stewpot and the Central Mississippi Continuum of Care.

Buckley said they currently have twenty transitional housing rooms booked, but the number varies depending on whether they are helping families or individuals.

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