First Lady to recognize Gilich for veterans homelessness efforts

First Lady Michelle Obama will recognize Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and a handful of other U.S. mayors in a White House ceremony Monday for their efforts to help end homelessness among veterans in their respective communities. 

The First Lady invited Gilich and his wife, Serena, to the White House for the ceremony, which follows up on similar recognition months ago at the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a congratulatory call from an Obama cabinet member. 

It was on New Year’s Eve in 2015 when Julian Castro, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, telephoned Mayors  Gilich and Billy Hewes of Gulfport to congratulate the two leaders for effectively ending homelessness among veterans.

What this means, according to Matthew Doherty, executive director of the National Council on Homelessness, is that Gulfport and Biloxi put in place programs that have the capacity and resources to assist veterans in obtaining and maintaining housing stability.

According to Mary Simons, executive director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition, the Gulf Coast’s Continuum of Care organization whose members plan for affordable housing options and services for persons experiencing homelessness, “While every housing crisis among veterans and their families cannot be prevented, we have the systems in place across the Gulf Coast to assure that veterans who need affordable housing and services will be linked to the resources to ensure that any bout of homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring.”

In 2015, about 250 homeless veterans across the Coast were moved into housing and a stable environment.

“This effort has been a team effort,” Gilich said at the time, noting that the effort included “strong partnerships with the Biloxi Veterans Administration, the Biloxi Housing Authority, the Mississippi Housing Authority Region VIII in Gulfport, and community partners that include Oak Arbor, Hancock Resource Center, and Voices of Calvary Ministries who have received federal funds to assist veterans and their families across the Coast.”