Articles, Blog

Jackson leaders consider program to put panhandlers to work

September 12, 2019


CARDBOARD SIGN AND ACCEPTING
MONEY FROM
DRIVERS. BUT, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? AND
WHAT IS THE CITY OF JACKSON
DOING TO
HELP GET PANHANDLERS OFF THE
STREETS? WE WENT TO INVESTIGATE…  
 
 
 
41 YEAR OLD TOMMY KOZEL AND HIS
DOG MAX
LIVE ON THE STREETS OF JACKSON. TOMMY SAYS HE WAS A POLICE
OFFICER IN HIS
20S, BUT HIS ADDICTION TO DRUGS
COST HIM HIS
CAREER
WE FOUND HIM COLLECTING MONEY AT COUNTY LINE ROAD AND I-55. I MEAN, IT’S THE EASIEST WAY,
BUT
IT’S THE HARDEST WAY BECAUSE I
HATE DOING IT. IT’S DEGRADING. IT’S
EMBARRASSING. TOMMY ADMITS HE’S A CONVICTED
FELON,
SPENDING YEARS IN PRISON FOR
ROBBING A
PAWN SHOP. THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS CONFIRMS, HE WAS
CONVICTED IN PEARL RIVER COUNTY
IN 2008. HIS SENTENCE WITH MDOC EXPIRED
IN 2013. ON JOB APPLICATIONS THEY ASK YOU
IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN
CONVICTED OF A FELONY AND IF YOU
SAY YES, THEY’RE GOING TO LOOK
MORE INTO IT. AND IF YOU SAY NO
AND THEY DO FIND OUT ONCE YOU GET
THE
JOB, YOU’RE GONNA GET FIRED
ANYWAY, SO IT’S LIKE, I DON’T
KNOW. IT’S HARD TO EVEN ATTEMPT
TO GET A JOB. ON A GOOD DAY, HE SAYS HE
COLLECTS AROUND 60
DOLLARS. HIS GOAL IS TO GET ENOUGH FOR A
MOTEL
ROOM…. AND FOR ALCOHOL. HE
SAYS HE DRINKS A LITER OF VODKA
A DAY TO COPE WITH BEING HOMELESS. IF YOU’RE SOBER IT’S TWICE,
THREE
TIMES AS, 20 TIMES AS HARD, YA
KNOW
WHAT I MEAN? I COULDN’T FACE
REALITY THAT WAY. JUST DOWN THE INTERSTATE, WE
FOUND
51 YEAR OLD THOMAS BROWN ON
BEASLEY
ROAD. HE SAYS HE’S BEEN ON THE STREETS
FOR
NEARLY FOUR YEARS, SINCE HIS DAD
DIED. I HAVE CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE. I’M SUPPOSED TO TAKE 10 DIFFERENT
MEDICINES A DAY, BUT I DON’T
HAVE THEM. THOMAS SAYS HE WORKS THE CORNER
FOR
ABOUT TWO OR THREE HOURS TOTAL
EACH DAY. HE SAYS HIS ILLNESS AND CHRONIC
PAIN
PREVENT HIM FROM STANDING FOR
TOO
LONG, JUST LONG ENOUGH TO GET
MONEY FOR FOOD AND BEER. I MAY MAKE 20 DOLLARS A DAY OR
SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO GET ME
SOMETHING TO EAT. AND YEAH, I
DRINK BEER. I’M NOT GONNA LIE
ABOUT THAT. BUT IT KILLS THE
PAIN. WHEN THOMAS NEEDS TO SIT AND
TAKE A BREAK
– ANOTHER HOMELESS MAN, JAMES
JONES, IS
WAITING TO TAKE HIS PLACE. THOMAS SAYS THE MEN WHO WORK
THIS CORNER
KNOW EACH OTHER AND THEY TAKE
TURNS. IT’S RIDICULOUS! THE CITY NEEDS
TO
DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! IT’S OUT
OF HAND! THE CITY OF JACKSON IS LOOKING
AT
IMPLEMENTING A PROGRAM TO PUT
PANHANDLERS TO WORK. OTHER CITIES AROUND THE COUNTRY
HAVE
SIMILAR PROGRAMS, LIKE
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW
MEXICO. A VAN DRIVES AROUND ALBUQUERQUE
OFFERING
PANHANDLERS JOBS WITH THE CITY –
ANYTHING FROM PULLING WEEDS TO
PICKING UP
LITTER WITH ALBUQUERQUE’S SOLID WASTE DEPARTMENT. JACKSON IS STUDYING OTHER CITYS
WORK
PROGRAMS FOR PANHANDLERS BEFORE
IMPLEMENTING ITS OWN. THEY’VE BEEN VERY POSITIVE IN
SHARING THEIR PARTS OF THE
PROCESS, THEIR DETAILS, THEIR
RESEARCH, THEIR STATS, SO THAT
WE
CAN HAVE A STARTING FORM. THE HOMELESS MEN WE TALKED TO SAID
THEY WOULD BE INTERESTED IN A
WORK PROGRAM IF
THE CITY OFFERED ONE.  
 
 
 
IT’S TECHNICALLY NOT ILLEGAL TO
STAND ON A
PUBLIC ROAD WHILE HOLDING A
SIGN STEWPOT ESTIMATES THERE ARE 400
HOMELESS PEOPLE LIVING IN HINDS
COUNTY,
INCLUDING THOSE IN SHELTERS.  
 
 
 
THE FIRST CASE OF THE WEST NILE
VIRUS

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