Mayors recognized for work with homeless veterans

Julian Castro, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, called Mayors Andrew “FoFo” Gilich of Biloxi and Billy Hewes of Gulfport this afternoon to congratulate the two city leaders on their efforts to help end homelessness among veterans.

In fact, Castro told the mayors and other local housing advocates, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness believe that Biloxi and Gulfport have effectively ended homelessness among veterans.

What this means, according to Matthew Doherty, executive director of the national council on homelessness, is that Gulfport and Biloxi have 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.”

Since January, 244 homeless veterans across the Coast have moved into housing and a stable environment.

“This effort has been a team effort,” Mayor Gilich said. “Biloxi and Gulfport are receiving this designation because of 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.

In addition to providing resources for veterans experiencing homelessness to move into housing, local efforts have created opportunities for jobs so that veterans and their families can increase their incomes and close the door to homelessness forever.

“As the lead agency for the Harrison County HOME Consortium, Gulfport has partnered with Biloxi, Back Bay Mission and Gulf Coast Housing Initiative in the construction of eight new apartments designated for our veterans.” Mayor Hewes said. “This benchmark for veterans is crucial, however, we must build on this work to create solutions for the overall problem and causes of homelessness which persists in our communities.”
See the letter of commendation