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Community Group Counts 400 Homeless Children in Jackson County

By Rhonda Miller | Published 10 Jul 2012 06:58pm | comments
Dee Tooley, case manager for Family Promise of Jackson County, makes lunch with one of the teenagers whose family is in the program.

Mississippi has about 12,000 homeless children.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports a Jackson County group is working to cut the number down one family at a time.

Inside the comfortable one-story house in Escatawpa,  Jim Tooley teaches a song to 14-year-Sean, whose family is homeless.

This house is the home of Family Promise of Jackson County.  Tooley is director of the non-profit that helps parents get jobs and families get into stable housing. Meanwhile, Tooley makes sure children don’t suffer the negative effects of homelessness, like poor health.

"The boys went over and played basketball with the firemen. So they’ve experienced keeping themselves in shape, both the firemen and themselves."

Physical health is just one of the things that goes downhill for homeless children, according to a 2010 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness.

Homeless children also suffer from poor emotional health, hunger and missed educational  opportunities.  The study found a majority of homeless children do worse than their peers in math and reading.

Sean  is a ninth-grader in Ocean Springs and he has his heart set on a plan.

"Go back to Ocean Springs to live and go to school."

His family is one of a few that has a chance of stabilizing with the help of Family Promise. But that’s a small dent in the 1.6 million homeless children in America and the 12,000 in Mississippi.

Dee Tooley is case manager for Family Promise. She estimates there are 400 homeless children in Jackson County alone, based on government documentation she collected from local schools.   

"The government describes homeless as, if you’re bunked up in a small camper that doesn’t have facilities for everyone. Or if you’re staying with relatives and people are sleeping on the floor. Or many of them do live out in the woods, maybe in a tent."

Mississippi ranks second in the nation in the number of homeless children and the lack of programs to address the problem. Only Alabama has a worse ranking.



Dee Tooley, case manager for Family Promise of Jackson County, makes lunch with one of the teenagers whose family is in the program.



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