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Mississippi's Capital Looking For New Ways To End Homelessness
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Activists for the homeless are calling for more affordable housing units and the end of criminal background checks on job applications as a way to break the cycle of homelessness. The capital city of Jackson is renewing its effort to find homes for the more than 400 homeless people living on the streets.

 On any given night, about 450 Mississippians are sleeping on Jackson's streets. 

Non-profits, government agencies and a group of homeless people met in Jackson this week to look for new ways to get people living on the street into permanent housing.

 High on the list, says Hynethia Richards with the Mississippi Housing Partnership, is increasing the number of low income housing units available in the city. 

"Because it is such a big issue. And of course with a non-profit we have concerns about being able to afford what we need to do. But we are looking into a private public partnership to be able to afford more units. 

Many of the homeless men and women also spoke of not being able to access needed mental health treatment and abuse by local police. 

Michael Johnson, who is homeless, says the biggest barrier is a criminal background check required by most job applications.

 "If you have got a felony you can't get a job. That is why a lot of people are on the street today. If you have a felony, you can't get a job and system is shutting us down," Johnson said.

Silo Cotton Jr. recent found a home after living in a tent in a wooded area of Jackson for eight months. 

He says homelessness can become a trap that is nearly impossible to break out of.

 "You get stuck. That is why it comes with a mind frame of having something to live for. Some of these guys that come out here don't have anything to live for. Their families have thrown them away. And you get accustomed to this," Cotton said.

Statewide, there is an estimated 24-hundred or more homeless people