Jackson's only daytime homeless shelter shuts down - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson's only daytime homeless shelter shuts down

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By Monica Hernandez - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Charles Williams sat on Amite Street in downtown Jackson just before sunrise Monday morning, toting a black bag and a baseball cap.

He told WLBT he returned to Jackson a few days ago, after spending a few years Baltimore.

Williams is one of thousands of homeless people in the capitol city. He says he had planned to go Stewpot's Opportunity Center in downtown Jackson to look for work, but saw the three-year-old center had shut down.

"It just took the air out of my lungs. It was like nothing, nothing else you can do," said Williams.

Located near other homeless centers in downtown Jackson, Stewpot's Opportunity Center was the Jackson's only daytime center.

"Guys like us, that's the opportunity center. We don't have opportunity now," said Williams.

It gave people a place to shower, wash clothes, search for a job... And stay out of the heat.

"I mean, it was the best thing Mississippi had in years," said Williams.

Funding  issues are to blame for the shelter's closure, according to Reverend Frank Spencer, executive director of Stewpot Community Services, which ran the Opportunity Center.

Spencer said it cost over $170,000 a year to run the shelter, and when grants dried up, Stewpot was forced to shut the center down.

"It was very tough," said Spencer. "It's the only place the homeless have to go and be legal during the day."

But Carrie Shelton, the owner of Carrie's Learning Daycare nearby, said she was glad the shelter closed. She was unable to speak on camera Friday, but told WLBT over the phone that those who used the center would loiter outside and leave trash in the neighborhood.  

She added that a rash of car burglaries ended when the center closed back in April.

"A lot of people just didn't know how to act and appreciate the place," said former Opportunity Center client Elliott Barber.

"They say people doing this in the community. Once you close down this place right here, you sent the people into the community, do things they don't want to do," said Williams.

Spencer said the shelter's closing prompted police to increase patrols in the area because the homeless now have nowhere to go.

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