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 cities of Biloxi and Gulfport for home restoration have helped the Mission give back houses to homeowners who lack the financial resources to complete the projects on their own.
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 1:30-3:30 p.m. 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.
Affordable housing has emerged as the top post-Katrina concern on the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the enormous loss of housing stock up and down the Coast. Back Bay Mission volunteers, and many others from across the nation, continue working feverishly to restore salvageable property. For more than 30 years, the Mission has sought to maintain the affordable housing stock on the Mississippi Coast through its low-income rehabilitation program. After Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, Back Bay Mission positioned itself to go a step further by establishing a new affordable housing initiative.
With an estimated 65,000 homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and 64,000 more extensively damaged, many poorer neighborhoods have not the least capacity to recover. City officials, social service providers and many others have all recognized the need to provide new affordable housing options along the Coast. While Back Bay Mission cannot meet the overwhelming need for housing alone, it has undertaken a new, important role in the area of community development and planning. In 2009, Back Bay Mission broke ground on its first full-scale housing development, Bethel Estates. This is the first major effort in what is planned as long-term, ongoing new work.