MCHC surveying homeless to secure funding for aid

MANILA, AR (KAIT) - The Mississippi County Homeless Coalition is working hard to aid the homeless by conducting surveys in Manila, Blytheville and Osceola to get an accurate count of those in need.

Manila site director Dale Baker said the survey's goal is to secure funding to aid the people in Mississippi County who do not have a permanent residence or are living in condemned houses and abandoned buildings.

A female survey taker in Manila who does not want her name revealed said homelessness in Manila is a growing problem. "To be honest, until we had the ice storm that one year, I didn't know that there was homeless here, and I've lived here for 10 years."

"I volunteered for the Red Cross to help pass out the food, and that's when I found out that there was a couple of older men that were just living in sheds."

Now, she needs help due to financial difficulties. "I live down the road, but as of the end of this month, I'll be having to leave and go to another town," she said. "I won't be able to make my bills this month."

The coalition provided supply bags with food and personal care items to people who completed the confidential survey.

The Mississippi County Homeless Coalition first conducted the survey in 2011. The 2011 count totaled 69 people. The Manila site director Dale Baker said the low number is due to the shame associated with not having a place to stay. "They have their pride they don't want you to know their homeless."

Baker said one of the places homeless live is in the abandoned homes in a neighborhood behind Big Lake. Bill Stone who has lived in the neighborhood for about 60 years said he has not seen any homeless people."Ain't no squatters out here. Everybody owns 'bout what they got."

Susie Parker, an outreach worker of the Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission said Manila already has energy bill assistance programs and food pantries in place for low income families, but nothing specifically for homeless people.  "We have a program for commodities, for 60 and older. I have 57 families in Leachville and Manila."

Tracy Hitchcock is volunteered to help with the survey today in hopes of changing the perception that homelessness is a big city problem. "I want to open people's eyes and let them see beyond their own little world."

"I was not aware that we had a homeless problem here in Manila and this is my town."

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