TUPELO • For organizations that address homelessness in the area, the first thing on the agenda for the year is a resource fair and a census that will take place later this month to offer services to homeless individuals and amass data about the population in Northeast Mississippi.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded statewide homeless coalition, the Mississippi Balance of State Continuum of Care, is comprised of organizations that operate using emergency solutions grants, housing funding or emergency shelter funds to address, prevent and divert homelessness in Mississippi.

The Continuum of Care Coalition has several regional coalition partners that help administer a census of homeless populations in Mississippi, and the time has come around again for another count.

Mississippi United to End Homelessness has helped facilitate the Point In Time Count in 71 counties throughout the state since 2010 and will help administer the count in Northeast Mississippi on Jan. 29.

Northeast Mississippi Director Sara Ekiss said MUTEH will hit the pavement the day after the resource fair to find and document homeless in the area. Ekiss said the count will measure the effectiveness of homeless response efforts in the area.

“While the point in time count is going on, MUTEH will have outreach teams going into encampments and looking for literally homeless individuals. We will map those encampments so we can do continual follow ups,” Ekiss said.

The Coalition and MUTEH will compile the census data acquired to provide targeted aid for homeless populations.

At the resource fair on Jan. 28, organizations will have booths set up offering haircut vouchers, legal assistance, medical exams, employment assistance, housing services, hygiene kits and other resources to homeless individuals.

LIFT, The Family Resource Center, Crosswinds of Corinth, Golden Triangle and staffing agencies and the WIN Job Center and others will attend.

The most recent Point In Time Count for Northeast Mississippi in 2018 was 130 homeless. Lee County had the highest number of homeless in the region, at 78 individuals counted. Regional coalition counts last year also concluded the northeast region had the second highest number of homeless individuals in the state after the Pine Belt.

Hannah Maharrey, Families First for Mississippi grant administrator and Homeless Task Force member, said one of the big challenges in her experience with addressing homelessness is assisting homeless who do not wish to be housed.

“We have been doing so much outreach and talking to so many people, and there are some individuals that have refused housing. The public doesn’t understand that sometimes,” Maharrey said.

“Our due diligence is to continue to offer services because from one day to the next, it might be a no today but it might be a yes tomorrow,” she added.

Maharrey said the goal of area homeless organizations and the state coalition into 2019 is to create more partnerships, reduce the time it takes to find homeless individuals and to educate the community.

There will continue to be monthly Coffee and Conversation outreach meetings to educate the public, as well as a few Homeless Task Force events this the year.

“We really are a collaboration,” Maharrey said.

Ekiss said MUTEH has several goals for 2019, such as orchestrating an “effective end” to veteran and chronic homelessness.

“An effective end means every homeless veteran in the City of Tupelo is engaged and offered housing at least every 14 days, and our second goal is to achieve an effective end to chronic homelessness in Tupelo.” Ekiss said.

“MUTEH wants to see a literal reduction of homelessness in Tupelo. We don’t want to see people camping out, or encampments in Tupelo, and we think that all the efforts we are putting in place will help to achieve this goal and reduce the number of homeless in Tupelo,” Ekiss added.

For more information, contact Hannah Maharrey at (662) 205-8223 or email hmaharrey@frcnms.org.

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