(BILOXI, MS) May 21 -- People come to Biloxi from all across the country with one hope in mind... hit the jackpot. Rodney Hafley is one of them. But he wasn't betting on blackjack, Hafley put all his chips on construction work. "We came up here looking for work, thinking there'd be a lot of building here cause we went down to Miami after Andrew." Now Hafley says he's lucky to be picked by Labor Finders to work two days a week.
His story is not unique. Just blocks away from the bright, twinkling lights and exotic shows... the luck, for many, has run out. Main Street is a popular gathering place for the new face of homeless. "We've got beans and rice and mixed vegetable today," said one kitchen worker. Loaves and Fishes feeds the homeless lunch daily, and across the street, Pastor Hollins feeds the soul by preaching on the steps of his church.
Case workers dealing with the homeless say hundreds flocked to Biloxi after the storm thinking they'd cash in on lucrative construction projects, and instead, found themselves with no work and no place to go.
There is only one emergency overnight shelter along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It's 30 miles away from Biloxi in Pascagoula.
Rev. Elijah Mitchell helps run the only day shelter in the area. "We're doing what we can with what little funding we have," said Mitchell.
The minister says there are too many to help and not enough services. Some of those social services were wiped out by the storm. So were many affordable places to stay. "The majority of people I come in contact with have met some challenges in life, had a downfall in life and need a way to get back up again."
Places like Back Bay Mission try to set aside funds to pay for bus tickets to help get people back home, but there's little money to go around. "I can't afford to get out. I can't afford to stay. It's a, what do they say, a catch, catch 22. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. People are just stuck here," said Gary King.
"It just went from bad to worse, when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose," said Hafley. And nothing left to gamble. Hafley says he's stuck in a place where the luck is gone and hope isn't too far behind.
Some call it a silent epidemic taking place in the streets of Biloxi, and it's happening just blocks from the bright lights and big shows, where others hit the jackpot.
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