The AmeriCorps*VISTA program at Delta State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development, the American Red Cross Northwest Mississippi Office, Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc. and local service providers joined efforts in honor of Martin Luther King Day to prepare personal hygiene bags that will be distributed during the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness.
The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities across the country to receive funding. The annual count is an important effort to make sure the voices of people experiencing homelessness in our communities are heard, and efforts are made to provide appropriate services. It also helps communities develop more effective plans and measure progress toward ending homelessness.
The VISTA program hosted a donation drive from Nov. 25, 2013 through Jan. 20, 2014 to collect items such as socks, blankets, travel size hygiene products, first-aid kits, small snacks, nabs, snack crackers, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, flash lights and coats. More than 2,300 items valued at more than $2,600 were received during the donation drive. Supporters included 11 VISTAs, three Red Cross volunteers and eight community members who were Drum Majors for Service by dedicating 118 hours sorting and preparing 202 personal hygiene bags.
The VISTA program has partnered with Ledger Parker, program director for Mississippi United To End Homelessness in Jackson and Joseph Herring with Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc in Mound Bayou. These partnerships ensure the bags and other donations will be distributed to homeless veterans and homeless populations living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and domestic violence shelters.