The Jones County Board of Supervisors moved forward in their first monthly meeting of July to modify the rule book pertaining to the county’s community centers. The shift came after a passionate presentation at the supervisors meeting at the Ellisville Courthouse by Kathy Harrison, the president of the Boggy Community Center in Beat 4.
Harrison described a squatter problem that transpired at the Boggy Community Center recently, detailing how a homeless man living under the Oakey Woods Creek bridge had used the community center for several days as his living quarters. He could not enter the building, but he took up residence on the front porch. There he slept on one of the benches and had a bulldog along with some dog food nearby. Empty tuna cans and clothes were strewn across the community center’s front area, and a water hose was hanging from a tree over a chair where the man could wash off.
The man, said Harrison to the supervisors, had refused assistance from some community members who offered to help relocate him to better living accommodations.
“We keep our community center up and doing well,” she stated. “This is something that may happen at any community center, and I’m here to make you aware of it.”
On the Sunday before a recent Tuesday election, Harrison drove up to the community center to make sure everything was in order for voters who would arrive in a couple of days. That’s when she found the squatter on the front porch.
“When I drive up, we have a settlement in front of the community center,” she recalled to the supervisors. “He has moved in. I could not believe what I saw in front of the community center that I’m president of.”
Some other residents had come by and poured bleach on the benches in an effort to rid the front area of the community center of the smell of urine. Harrison then spent close to two hours scrubbing the front of the building that Sunday afternoon in an effort to get the facility ready for the voters who would arrive Tuesday. She took photos of the scene that day and offered to show them to the supervisors.
“I’m 70 years old and don’t need to fool with this. Y’all need to address this and put it in the rules that the community centers are not homeless shelters,” she continued, pointing out that the centers are for voting, family reunions, birthday parties and so forth. “This is unacceptable. It takes guts to make decisions about what’s right for our communities, and we need people today in leadership positions who have guts.”
All of the county's community centers will remain closed until the end of the month. The supervisors closed them months ago due to COVID-19.