Help for the Homeless in Indianola
Collaboration, cooperation and teamwork have always been a hallmark of the Indianola Promise Community, so when IPC wanted to be more active in assisting Sunflower County’s homeless population, they found a partner just across the county line. “We’re working with the Bolivar County Community Action Agency and its Rapid Re-Housing Program to find housing for those who need a roof over their heads in our own community,” said Cassandra Rule, IPC Social Services Coordinator. “We want to get them into a home and then help them find employment so they can stay in that home.”
IPC, through the Rapid Re-Housing Program, helps identify landlords willing to participate in the program which covers the first three months’ rent plus the deposit. Since August, three families have secured housing with five more waiting in the wings, said Rule.
“When you have the kind of economy we have here, many families find themselves out on the street because they can’t afford to pay the rent,” said Rule. “Then you have young people still living at home with their parents and having families of their own. They have to find places to live because there just isn’t room.”
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mississippi has 2,246 people considered homeless. Of those, 315 are under the age of 18; 1,126 are in emergency shelters or some kind of temporary traditional housing; and 817 are “unsheltered.”
Efforts to help the homeless are important, especially in rural areas such as the Mississippi Delta where people are between 1.2 and 2.3 times more likely to be poor than people living in metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
“And poor rural communities have some of the highest rates of homelessness in the country,” the council reported. “Nearly one in five rural counties has a poverty rate of 20 percent or more.”
Rule said that placing at least 20 families a year in housing in Sunflower County would go a long way in helping alleviate the problem. Reaching that goal takes involvement by cooperating social service agencies, which is nothing new to Rule. With IPC, she routinely works to break down the isolation between local, state and federal agencies and groups, and brings them together for the greatest benefit to residents.
Such collaboration allows IPC to be a clearinghouse for information that residents need – a resource and referral agency within itself, where everyone knows what the other is providing. Agencies and groups meet regularly, said Rule, and are always working to provide the greatest benefit to Indianola and Sunflower County residents.”
Tying into that collaboration is Indianola’s Excel By 5 Coalition, a statewide, community-based certification program that encourages and assists communities to become actively involved in supporting their young children. Excel By 5 certification is a designation that the city currently holds and is actively working to assist children and their families. The program identifies gaps in community resources and promotes community collaboration, volunteerism and economic development.
IPC also holds resource fairs for parents and their children to provide information and guidance that can improve their quality of life. Literature has begun to be converted into Spanish to assist Hispanic residents, and special needs residents are receiving more attention. The collaboration even connects to agencies in other cities, such as the Bolivar County Community Action Agency, to provide the greatest impact for residents.
As Rule has stated on more than one occasion: “We’re building an arsenal of resources. And I know it’s going to take an army to get it done.”