For 84 years, Back Bay Mission has quietly worked a community ministry to help the poor, the marginalized, the homeless and the abused. As the appropriately named Equal Opportunity Destroyer, Hurricane Katrina showed the mission no more mercy than others. |
Demolition was scheduled for Monday for all but one of the seven buildings at the 1012 Division Street location, but that is on hold pending permission from the city because the buildings are in a historic district. This is not the original mission site, which moved in the mid-1990s when a casino built on the mission's long-time Back Bay location.
The mission was founded in 1922 as an outreach for poor families working in Biloxi's seafood factories, but over the years has expanded to include the area's poor, homeless and disenfranchised with help with housing, food and health care.
Back Bay was founded by First Evangelical Church of Biloxi, which later became United Church of Christ. UCC still maintains the mission under the leadership of the Rev. Shari Prestemon, and, traditionally, many local churches and civic groups help Back Bay with labor and monetary donations.
UCC also annually sends work teams for a house stabilization program that for 40 years has brought homes and neighborhoods up to code. Ironically, it was a precursor to the massive national faith-based recovery response that has followed Katrina.
The mission reopened in trailers in October and continues, as finances allow, with its programs for prescription and gas vouchers and other emergency assistance and referrals.
"Absolutely we will rebuild," said Nancy Wilson, Back Bay's director of development. "We're working with an architect and we think the facilities we rebuild will serve the community even better than before."
- KAT BERGERON