A new task force created by District One Supervisor Robert Graham could help Hinds County get a better grasp on its homeless problem and give it new tools on how to address it.
The board of supervisors recently established the Homelessness and Food Insecurity Task Force, chaired by District Two Supervisor David L. Archie.
It will include four or five additional members. Archie had not named members at press time.
The group will be responsible for identifying the full scope of the county’s homelessness problem, identify resources available to assist the homeless and to inform the public and elected leaders about homelessness and food insecurity problems in the county.
“One of the things we want to do is compile a list of resources and a way to get people to those resources, as a way to get them off the corners and stop them from panhandling,” Graham said. A report will be due back to the board within 120 days of the committee’s formation.
Homelessness and panhandling in the county has increased in recent months, especially along the I-55 North corridor in North Jackson. “I’ve noticed more and more people asking for money,” he said. They’re at all the intersections along I-55. They used to be just at County Line. Now, it’s all up and down the interstate.”
Business owners have contacted Graham concerned the increase in homeless camps will drive away business. The I-55 corridor is one of the busiest in the metro area, and includes Highland Village, Maywood Mart, Banner Hall, Deville Plaza and the Kroger shopping center.
Jackson police say there has been an increase in shoplifting along the corridor and credit the increase to the increase in the vagrant population.
Graham also is concerned for the safety of the homeless, as well as motorists they interact with. “On several occasions there have been traffic accidents because people stop to give them money,” he said.
“On several occasions there have been traffic accidents because people stop to give them money,” he said.
The task force comes as the city of Jackson also plans to address the homeless problem along the corridor.
In April, the city council passed an ordinance to address problems at the overpasses.
That ordinance prohibits camping under the bridges, and prohibits individuals from storing personal effects in those areas unattended. Rules also prohibit individuals from interfering with ingress and egress areas.
Under the measure, individuals are first given an oral or written warning from the police department. Those who are caught violating the rules a second time can be arrested.
Further, personal property, such as shopping carts and sleeping bags, can be confiscated by the police. Rules state that those items can be taken by the department without warning and retained “in a manner consistent with the handling of other confiscated property.”
The ordinance does not spell out penalties for violations, and it was not known when the ordinance would be enforced.
City officials could not be reached for comment.