- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - In happier times, Quincey Carpenter and his wife donated money to Gateway Rescue Mission in Jackson.

This week, the widowed Navy veteran and father of two was among two dozen people lined up outside the center, braving the wind and the cold, waiting to get a free meal.

Carpenter, 42, has been homeless two times in the last three years. His wife died in 2012, just five months after the birth of the couple’s second child.

After her death, Carpenter entered a deep depression. Suffering from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Carpenter said he is unable to hold a steady job or pay his bills. The Department of Human Services took his children.

“Life got in the way,” Carpenter said.

According to the latest data from Partners to End Homelessness, there are currently 17 veterans in the Jackson area living without shelter.

Mayor Tony Yarber wants to change that number to zero. Yarber has announced plans to end veteran homelessness in Jackson by the end of 2015. The announcement comes as President Barack Obama continues to press for cities to address homelessness among veterans.

Stacey Howard, executive director of Partners to End Homelessness, said the mayor’s goal is “certainly doable.”

Yarber said area agencies that have been working independently would unite to assist veterans.

“I think ultimately the plan itself is about creating wraparound services,” Yarber said. “What you’ve seen in the past is all of the groups were working in isolation. What they realized is it made much more sense to be able to bring those resources in one room, talk out loud about what those resources are in concert, and what we have now is a plan that is an actual wraparound piece.”

Wilbur Logan, director of Billy Brumfield Shelter, said help couldn’t come fast enough.

About 600 men pass through the shelter each year, Logan said. By alleviating the burden of caring for Jackson’s homeless veterans, the city essentially allows shelters like Logan’s to provide a hot meal and safe place to sleep for others.

With 24 beds, two couches and seven sleeping bags, the Brumfield Shelter fills up quickly.

Carpenter said many men seek out shelters because their sense of pride keeps them from asking friends or family for help.

“You know, you’re a man, you have pride,” he said. “You don’t want to go to a friend’s house; you don’t even want to go to your mama’s house so you’ll go to a shelter.”

With the help of Partners to End Homelessness, Carpenter was able to move into a home in January. His children live with his mother, but Carpenter is hoping to regain physical custody soon.

While he has a place to lay his head, the $23 he receives in food stamps each month is not enough to sustain him. So for now, he continues to come to the place that he and his late wife once viewed as a safe haven for others.

“It’s the American dream to have your own home, especially with children,” he said. “You’re an example so you can hold your own head up. You really do feel like a failure when you’re in a homeless situation, whether your heart is saying, ‘I know I’m better than this, I know I can do better than this.’”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com


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