Mississippi working to steer homeless into shelters instead of under bridges

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A place where dozens once camped out for safety and shelter in Jackson has been emptied.

Earlier this week, crews started construction on a second fence in northeast Jackson. According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the project is expected to cost $246,000.

The project is designed to keep the homeless from camping under interstate overpasses.

“I understand the city doing that because of the trash and all of that, but if yall keep closing everything up and don’t let people get out here and collect money to put a roof over their head, there is going to be more drug use, and there is going to be more people on the streets,” said one homeless woman.

“It will save us money, hopefully, in the long run because any damage that happens to these bridges can cost double that,” stated Michael Flood, Public Information Officer for MDOT.

The fencing is being placed under I-55 on Canton Mart Road. A third fence will go around the Northside Drive underpass.

“These are heavily traveled bridges on a major interstate in Jackson. They are used by thousands of motorists everyday, so we are doing this to preserve these structures,” said Flood.

The construction comes days after law enforcement leaders announced Operation Safe Corners Task Force, which targets panhandling in Jackson.

“We received calls from citizens and business owners witnessing these individuals using drugs, so it’s a bigger problem its not just homeliness,” said Jackson Police Chief James Davis.

While the requests of increased policing remains appreciative for some, others have different opinions.

“Not everybody out here is collecting money for drugs. A lot of us are out here trying to make enough money to put a roof over our head each day,” said one homeless woman.

Authorities said the plan is to partner with the community to find permanent housing, counseling and rehabilitation for the homeless.

According to MDOT, the fencing projects are expected to be finished by November 1, 2021.

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