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Homeless rely on churches for help

More so around the holidays than other times of the year, we tend to think about those who are less fortunate. With winter approaching, thoughts go out to those who are without a place to sleep at night.

Surely there are those affected by poverty in the local community, so where are they and what assistance is there for them in Brookhaven?

Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, with an overall rate of 21.5 and a child poverty rate of 29.4. Both Lincoln and Lawrence counties have a poverty rate higher than the state average, coming in at 22.6. Franklin County sits at 21.8. Copiah County tops the charts at 31.1 and Pike County has a 27.5 rate.

Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell said, surprisingly, the issue of homelessness has not been apparent in the city.

“I often think about that, they’re in other cities and stuff like that. Everyone once in a while there will be somebody getting kicked out of somewhere or having money problems, and they get up with another family member. But someone just traveling through, not living anywhere — we don’t have that,” he said.

St. Andrew’s Mission, at 104 S. Front St. in McComb, is a nonprofit organization that provides meals to the hungry, free medical care to the sick, shelter to the homeless and assistance and counseling to those in need. In 2011, St. Andrews Mission opened a shelter for homeless men. St. Andrew’s Mission can be reached at 601-684-4678.

Bell said he can’t remember coming across someone who was truly living on the streets. He said it is surprising, but most issues of transient housing can be resolved through family or friends or outreach. The most common example is someone receiving help from a local church.

“I would get in contact with a local church,” Bell said, talking about what he would do if he came upon someone who was living on the street. “In the past it’s been done like that. People come up on a hard time, and a local church will usually put them up in a hotel or something like that.”

In Brookhaven, aid for the impoverished — aside from one of the several churches with food pantries — can be found mostly at Brookhaven Outreach Ministries. BOM offers practical assistance including food, shelter, clothing, a food pantry (offering free groceries once a week), emergency shelter and a thrift store among other resources. BOM is located at 101 E. Court Street and can be reached at 601-833-1350.

The Doll’s House Rehabilitation Center for Women is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women, offering assistance with long-term transitional housing, life skills training and all  the support the facility and its staff can give.

At some point, Brookhaven might look to expand its offerings to people who are severely impoverished or homeless, but for right now it seems various arms in the community are available to help those in need.

“If a person around here goes hungry, basically it’s because he won’t tell anybody he’s hungry… usually around here, we gonna feed you,” Bell said.