BILOXI, Miss.—Earlier this year, a local Biloxi resident responded to my Jan. 18, 2023, tweet about a homeless individual that I encountered at a local Circle K. We discussed the various locations of homeless encampments in Biloxi and Gulfport and some places where we thought they could find affordable housing.
Little did I know, local WLOX news anchor Dave Elliott would take to social media a few days later to alert the community about the growing homeless “colonies” that are popping up on Debuys Road. “Small homeless colony on Debuys Road. One tent on the west side (Gulfport) the other across the street in the old Olive Garden parking lot in Biloxi,” Elliott posted on Facebook.
Elliott’s concerns seemed more like a dog whistle to me than a call for help. He inspired me I find out more about what local media outlets were not reporting. I thought about the homeless gentleman that I met at the Circle K. Who was he? Who robbed him? How did he become homeless? What basic necessities does he lack on a daily basis?
The aim of solutions-based journalism should spark serious conversations, not provide readers with senseless clickbait.
‘I’m Just Trying To Recover’
My curiosity led me to a wooded area near the old Jefferson Davis Elementary School on Iris Street. It was cold and raining when I arrived at the encampment. I could see the trash lining the sides of the street as I parked my car underneath a sign that literally said, “No Dumping, $100 Fine Police Dept.” As I approached the pathway, I noticed two abandoned vehicles. One was a white Mercury with a broken back window and only three tires.
The other was a Chrysler minivan riddled with tattered clothing. The entire area looked like a landfill. Makeshift huts, butane canisters, old clothes, grocery baskets and empty containers littered the muddy pathway. I noticed two gentlemen with a white truck slowly following me down the path. Suddenly, a man wearing a bright red sweatshirt appeared from behind the dense brush.
“Hello!” I yelled from the path. “My name is
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