Homelessness is rare in Picayune, but there are few options for help

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2019

For those dealing with homelessness in Picayune, the options are scarce, and even though some resources are available, there are restrictions that could prevent some people from getting back on their feet.
One such case was brought to light Monday morning when Picayune’s city code enforcement was asked to remove trash and miscellaneous items from a home on North Steele Avenue.
When building inspector Ted Barze arrived, he realized that someone was sleeping on couch cushions in the street.
The woman said she was sleeping on the street because she had been asked to leave the house she was sleeping in front of for not cleaning it properly. She also admitted she had smoked meth earlier that morning.
The home’s resident said he asked the woman to leave the house several weeks ago after she threatened him with a butcher knife. Since she was asked to leave, the resident said the woman has been sleeping in front of the home on and off for the last two or three weeks.
The city called police to remove the woman from the scene while the items in the street were cleaned up. Capt. James Bolton ended up arresting her for public profanity after she was heard cursing and said she would be released later in the day.
Bolton said the story behind the woman’s situation is long and sad.
“We have numerous homeless people here,” Bolton said. “Some of them just choose to live outdoors because of alcohol or drug issues.”
There are not many resources available to people who are experiencing homelessness in Picayune, Bolton said. The police department can refer individuals to shelters in other places like Slidell, New Orleans and cities on the Gulf Coast, Bolton said. In colder months, some individuals spend the night at the police department and leave in the morning, Bolton said.
The police department does have a small transient fund which is funded by local church groups and used to assist people who are passing through the city with transportation needs, which can include buying gas or a bus ticket, Bolton said.
In August, the Item spoke with Manna Ministries Project Director Dixie Reneault about local resources for homelessness. Reneault said there are many different reasons a person can become homeless, which can include losing a job, experiencing domestic violence or addiction. Often people become homeless because of a combination of different issues, Reneault said.
“If it’s a financial issue or if it’s addiction related, they usually need to be referred to a shelter because they have no place else to go,” Reneault said.
Manna Ministries is able to assist in meeting immediate needs like food, hygiene or providing funds for gas to get someone to work, Reneault said.
The Picayune Housing Authority is able to provide housing to people without income. However, people need identification forms like their birth certificate and Social Security card to apply and housing is not available to someone who has had a felony charge, Reneault said.
Just providing a bed to sleep in does not help people long term without case management, Reneault said. Some of the shelters do provide case management, but most will not accept people who do not have transportation.
“If they went there with no transportation, how are they going to work towards a goal of eventually getting out and finding a job? It would be up to the shelter to transport them everywhere they need to go and that’s just not feasible,” she said.
It is rare that Manna Ministries encounters someone with no transportation or place to go, she said. There is a need for a shelter with case management in the county, Reneault said.
“I don’t think it would need to be a big place, simply because of the volume that we’re dealing with. I think that if we had maybe ten beds, that would be adequate for our population,” Reneault said.
The only shelters she knows of in the county are for assistance with addiction, Reneault said.
Jacob’s Well does provide shelter and addiction recovery services in Picayune. The addiction program is a six month faith based program, said Picayune warehouse manager Ranae Hoda, and through its primary and secondary programs, Jacob’s Well can help participants with housing for over a year.
Participant Tiffany Bonfacino said the program has taught her to deal with her problems without drugs.
“It’s been great, I’ve been learning a lot about Jesus and I come to work everyday,” Bonfacino said.
However, program participants are not allowed to take any psychotropic medications, Hoda said, so the program is not a good resource for people dealing with mental health issues.
“We have partnered with Coastal Family Medical where they can get a year of free medical, dental, or vision with them, but with mental illnesses, we’re not equipped to deal with anything like that,” Hoda said.
People are sometimes sent for short hospital stays for mental health services, said Bolton. There are also outpatient mental health services available in the county. Still, addiction, homelessness and mental health issues combined are difficult to address with the existing resources in Picayune, he said.
“It’s one of those things that’s ongoing and all of those factors go together, and it makes it nearly impossible for them to get help even if they want help sometimes,” Bolton said.

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