City eyes homeless assessment center at former school

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is looking to build on the city’s award-winning partnership to end veterans homelessness with a program that could serve as a model to addressing the challenges of homelessness.

Gilich on Tuesday will be asking the City Council to approve a no-cost lease with Biloxi Public Schools that could see the creation of a homeless assessment and coordination center in west Biloxi that would link homeless individuals and families with available services, such as mental health or substance abuse.

“Right now, there are more questions than answers to resolving this issue of homelessness,” the mayor said. “What I can say is that we are not looking to have a shelter at the former site of Beauvoir Elementary School. Right now, we have a tapestry of services available for the homeless, but we envision a centralized, coordinated effort that makes the best use of available grants and programs. That’s what this is about.”

The Beauvoir site, which is north of the CSX railway off Lawrence and Iris streets in west Biloxi, is a former elementary school that sits on 17.5 acres. The school has sat vacant and unused for several years.

Gilich estimates that the city has as many as 400 homeless people – families, including children, and veterans – on any given day.

“This issue is not going away,” the mayor said, “and it’s not a problem that the police can or should solve. I believe that we have a responsibility to make sure that we are making the most of the available resources. Our goal is for homelessness to be a temporary situation in Biloxi.”

In November 2016, Biloxi was recognized for its partnership in an effort to identify homeless veterans and connect them with available services. In the past two years, the partnership with local agencies has led to finding sustainable housing and living conditions for more than 400 veterans.

 Said Gilich: “We want to build on that success.”
Read about the national attention for Biloxi
See the lease agreement on Tuesday’s agenda