Home
Hobby
Links
Pictures
About us

Organizational background
The work of the Open Doors Homeless Coalition (ODHC) was begun in
2001 by a few impassioned individuals who felt strongly that the region
was ill-equipped to confront the growing needs of persons experiencing
homelessness in South Mississippi. ODHC was duly incorporated in the
State of Mississippi on January 25, 2005, and received a 501 © 3 status in
August of 2005.

Prior to the creation of the Open Doors collaboration, there was no local
organization speaking to the issues of homelessness and working to
create solutions to it. Through public forums, meetings with legislative
representatives, newspaper articles, and television appearances, Open
Doors representatives address the causes of homelessness and
advocate for solutions to the problem at a local level. The development
of permanent supportive housing and transitional housing was new to
this community and has created for the first time a path to
self-sufficiency for one of the most vulnerable populations in this area.

South Mississippi has seen a startling growth in numbers of persons
experiencing homelessness. Experience and hard data offer evidence
that the escalation of housing prices in recent years, alongside
demolition of existing public housing units and a growing service
economy of low wages has created a measurable crisis in the region.

Since Open Doors’ inception, much has been accomplished:

The Coalition sought and secured the commitment of the Mayor of Biloxi
to develop a Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.
The Biloxi Housing Authority, in response to a Coalition request,
established a local preference for homeless persons in admissions to
public housing.
The Open Doors Advocacy Committee organized the first annual tri-state
conference on homelessness, attended by 100 persons.
The Coalition added 28 new transitional housing beds for the homeless.
The Coalition worked with the Biloxi Police Department to decrease
homeless arrests and involve the police in bringing the homeless to
housing and services.
Open Doors conducted a Point in Time survey of the homeless in the
lower six counties for three of the last four years and reported the results
to increase awareness of the plight of the homeless in our community.
Through the auspices of Open Doors, member agencies received HUD
grants totaling more than 1,000,000 to develop the permanent
supportive housing for the homeless in this area.
The leadership of Open Doors rotates among members and includes
representatives from the homeless population we serve. It is important
to put a face on the issue of homelessness and to tell the stories of those
who find themselves in these circumstances.
Needs Assessment

Homelessness is a reality of increasing magnitude across the United
States. In a given year, 3.5 million people experience homelessness,
40% of whom are children. Socio-economic contributors to
homelessness include a distinct lack of affordable housing, inadequate
and/or unsafe housing within the existing housing market, and the
disturbing fact that recent U.S. Census data revealed 35.9 million
Americans living in poverty. Homelessness cannot be effectively
addressed unless and until public policy reflects the interconnectedness
of all such factors.

South Mississippi has seen its own startling growth in numbers of persons
experiencing homelessness. Experience and hard data offer evidence
that the escalation of housing prices in recent years, alongside
demolition of existing public housing units and a growing service
economy of low wages has created a measurable crisis in the region.

Since Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, the face of homeless in this
area has changed dramatically. In addition to the many homeless
individuals and families that were present prior to the storm, there has
been an astronomical rise in the number of homeless on the gulf coast
due to destruction of housing in the storm, significant increase in rent,
and an influx of out of town construction workers. Many individuals
continue to live in tents on the property where their homes once stood or
in makeshift tent cities scattered across neighborhoods along the gulf
coast.

Although there are many relief organizations present on the gulf coast
providing assistance to those that have been affected by the storm, few
solutions have been offered to the tremendous shortage of affordable
housing. It is pertinent that we continue to seek funding to assure that
this valuable entity continues to thrive in the community addressing
issues that directly affect the homeless population. Without a voice in
the community, this would become a forgotten population with the
likelihood of developing effective, long term solutions impossible.

To continue to sustain this organization, it is imperative that funds are
solicited to provide for a director of the organization who will fulfill the
following tasks:

Facilitate the development and implementation of the coalition’s
strategy to end homelessness together with the Steering Committee and
coalition members.
Monitor the progress and goal attainment of Open Doors committees.
Represent Open Doors in relevant public forums and develop linkages
with other appropriate organizations.
Serve as liaison for Open Doors to joint meetings with other homeless
continuums within Mississippi.
Coordinate annual preparation of the HUD grant, which can potentially
secure over $500,000 annually for supportive housing and services for
homeless individuals and families.
Coordinate the annual point-in-time survey regarding the face of
homeless in this area, and disseminate the results to the community in
efforts to continue to educate on the number of homeless in the area,
and the needs of the homeless population.
This is the only collaborative organization that works to advocate for
homeless individuals and families in the lower six counties of Mississippi.
There are 2 other coalitions in the state that function similarly to ODHC in
the districts assigned by the Department of Housing and Urban
Development. We work closely with these entities to address all needs of
the homeless population in this state.