The Center for Community Ministry
BBM celebrates these accomplishments:
- Seminary internships at Back Bay Mission since 2000.
- Workshops and seminars that have been provided to the wider church and local community on topics of community health ministries and leadership development.
- Sabbatical residencies that have been provided to UCC clergy on the Back Bay Mission campus.
- Unique short-term classroom experiences that have been provided college students and seminarians. Students from Eden Seminary, Defiance College and Chicago Theological Seminary have participated in classes here.
- Internships in this and other Mission program areas for local university students.
Community Empowerment and Social Change
The Community Empowerment ministry of Back Bay Mission serves the local and wider communities and initiates fundamental systemic change through grassroots community organizing and advocacy.
For more than 80 years, Back Bay Mission has worked on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to assist those who have been marginalized by their poverty, race, lack of education or other life circumstances. The Mission has developed a proven model of community organizing and change as it birthed 10 new human service agencies, nurtured them to maturity, then spun them off as independent entities that continue to flourish and serve in extraordinary ways. Those agencies include
- Harrison County Head Start
- Gulf Coast Women’s Center
- Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force
- Interfaith Hospitality Network
- Gulf Coast Family Counseling
- Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen
- South Mississippi AIDS Task Force, Inc.
- Biloxi Cooperative Church Ministry
- Open Doors Homeless Coalition
Today’s priority is moving the Mission’s community development and advocacy commitments forward.
Among the top issues are homelessness, affordable housing and the establishment by the Mississippi Legislature of a statewide Housing Fund.
Homelessness has been addressed by creating a permanent housing and outreach program (Home at Last) at Back Bay Mission, and by working with other community stakeholders to develop the Open Doors Homeless Coalition of South Mississippi, which is responsible for bringing in approximately $1.8 million in new funding to deal with the homeless issue.
In an effort to dispel negative myths about affordable housing – NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), Back Bay Mission is conducting a public awareness campaign, Warm Welcome Gulf Coast: Because Hospitality is More than just a Slogan. (www.warmwelcomegulfcoast.org)
Back Bay Mission became widely known in other parts of the country as staff members traveled to local church congregations providing the “Shrimp Boil” dinner for which the Mission became famous. The dinner and fellowship it offered was a means of sharing information and news of the Mission and its ministry. Hundreds of people each year had an opportunity to learn of Back Bay Mission’s work at the same time they met the delicacy (shrimp) that was at the root of the ministry’s origin. Hurricane Katrina changed Coast life, making it difficult for the Mission to continue this tradition. Perhaps sometime in the future we will once again be able to travel far and wide, telling our story through “Shrimp Boil” dinners.
When possible, Executive Director Rev. Shari Prestemon often travels to Conferences and congregations of the United Church of Christ to share the story of Back Bay Mission’s ongoing ministries of transformation. Contact Shari Prestemon.
In addition, Back Bay Mission has Board Members and Development Associates throughout the country who are willing to speak at churches on the work of the Mission or provide materials. Some have also picked up the Shrimp Boil tradition and now share that custom with interested congregations.
Contact Lola Kane,Assistant for Donor Relations
Meanwhile, other resources have replaced staff road trips. A DVD is available as are printed materials (brochures, church bulletins) (click here to download).
We also encourage members of congregations to visit when “in the neighborhood,” and to send volunteer “work campers” here to involved themselves in changing lives for the better – an experience they’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Contact: Volunteer Coordinator
Housing Recovery/Work Camping
This program is one of Back Bay Mission’s trademarks within the United Church of Christ. Back Bay Mission has developed a highly successful style of work camping based on experiential learning. While the “work” in work camping has become more intense and the term “housing recovery” more appropriate since Hurricane Katrina, BBM’s model of work camping is more in demand than ever. It places equal emphasis on productivity (home rehabilitation or construction) and learning, using an action-reflection model. This powerful method helps people internalize their learning at the same time they build cohesive caring groups.
From serving approximately 20 work teams per year, the program has grown to hosting 40 teams as the Mission, along with many other organizations, responds to the overwhelming need for housing restoration. Work teams perform a wide range of tasks – from mold abatement to roofing to installing dry wall to electrical and plumbing work. When a Mission selects a home to restore, it commits to completing the project. The effort frequently requires many weeks’ work by several different work teams.
Grants from the city of Biloxi, the United Church of Christ, individual congregations and some corporations for home restoration have helped the Mission give back houses, at no cost, to homeowners who lack the financial resources to complete the projects on their own.
Emergency Assistance Program Services
WALK IN SERVICES
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
- Food Pantry – Wednesday, 1:00-3:00pm Clients can receive once every 30 day
- Prescriptions –Cannot do pain medication or controlled substance
- Birth Certificates
- ID/Driver’s License
Home At Last (HAL)
Home At Last (HAL) was created in May 2002 to provide at Back Bay Mission a more concrete response to homelessness. The program provides permanent housing and supportive services to homeless people who are also disabled, placing them in leased apartments that are identified, furnished and paid for by Back Bay Mission. A HAL caseworker Roxxanne Watts administers the program, providing case management to those it serves. The caseworker also conducts outreach in soup kitchens, shelters, on beaches and in the local streets to build relationships of trust with the homeless community and identify people who are eligible for HAL or other homeless services.
Home At Last is funded primarily by a grant from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department. Fourteen apartments are currently occupied.
The Micah Center, located on the Back Bay Mission campus (Building B) is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4pm, Tuesdays 9:00-12:00noon for showers only. It is a community resource facility that includes a day center for homeless individuals and families, equipped with showers, laundry services, mailboxes, computer and telephone access and other basic services. It is a day center, NOT an overnight shelter, but a center where people may find respite from the outdoors and attend to personal hygiene while also connecting with vital, mainstream social services, all under one roof.
The Micah Center accepts donations of items for hygiene kits, e.g., toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, etc. Questions regarding donations to the Micah Center should be directed to Glenda Marshall, Day Center Coordinator.
Affordable Housing Initiative
For more than 40 years, the Mission has sought to preserve the affordable housing stock on the Mississippi Coast through its low-income rehabilitation program and advocacy efforts. After Hurricane Katrina, affordable housing emerged as an even more urgent concern on the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the enormous loss of housing stock all along the Coast. Back Bay Mission volunteers and many others from across the nation worked feverishly to restore salvaged property, and the Mission positioned itself to go a step further by establishing a new affordable housing initiative.
A non-profit subsidiary of Back Bay Mission (Gulf Coast Housing Initiative, Inc.) was formed to carry this expanded commitment moving forward. In 2009 Back Bay Mission broke ground on its first full-scale housing development, Bethel Estates, a 32 unit single family homeownership development in Pass Christian, MS. After completing all infrastructure construction and 2 model homes the housing market and the overall economy took a turn for the worst. Unable to sell homes in the tight credit market Back Bay Mission sought other developers to build out the development as a rental property. On September 30, 2011 the transfer of Bethel Estates was finalized and construction is currently underway to build the remaining 30 single family homes as rental units. Back Bay is pleased to have initiated the development that will provide quality affordable housing to low-to-moderate income households in a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Moving forward, Back Bay Mission will continue to address the ongoing need for safe, decent, and affordable housing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working collaboratively with its non-profit subsidiary Gulf Coast Housing Initiative, Inc. (GCHI). Two new housing programs are planned in the short term, an acquisition- rehabilitation program and new construction to provide permanent supportive housing to homeless veterans. Look for updates on these new and exciting Affordable Housing Initiatives in the coming months.
Everett Lewis Associate for Housing Initiatives