SIFE hits home with new project

By Matthew Boyle and Caroline Young |
Graphic illustration by Katie Davis
Video by Shannon Rose Greene

Flagler College’s Students In Free Enterprise team will be hosting Cardboard Campout on the West Lawn on Friday, April 2 to raise awareness and money for its newest project, “Containers for a Cause.”




With “Containers for a Cause,” SIFE plans to build homeless transitional housing facilities from about 15 to 20 old railroad shipping containers. SIFE has already received one 40-foot shipping container, a donation from former St. Augustine mayor George Gardner.

SIFE President Jessica Welch said SIFE will begin converting that first container in about three weeks and it will only take about 10 days to convert.

“The first container is going to be used to raise awareness with tours and showcases,” Welch said.

Cardboard Campout project leader David LeDuke said the event’s purpose is to show students how homeless people live.

SIFE is trying to help the homeless rehabilitate instead of just giving them food and sustenance. Welch said LeDuke and another SIFE member, Justin Laverdiere, were working on another SIFE project, “Can Hunger,” when they said “this isn’t going to actually stop homelessness.” She said they got together and looked for a way SIFE could make a difference in the community and came up with “Containers for a Cause.”

“Walking to and from school, you see the homeless every day,” LeDuke said. “Something has to be done. We feel that getting them a house or somewhere to live is really the first step.”

LeDuke said regardless of the weather, the event is on.

SIFE's Cardboard Campout

“It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be raining or cold or that kind of thing because that’s something they [homeless people] deal with every night,” LeDuke said. “We want to bring it back to the forefront of everybody’s minds.”

LeDuke said SIFE hopes to make at least $3,000 from the Cardboard Campout.

Welch said each container costs about $7,000 total, $3,000 of which is the conversion cost. She said the total of 15 to 20 converted shipping containers will make a transitional housing facility for about 28 residents.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $25,000 to $30,000. Welch said SIFE hopes to get businesses and community leaders to donate the costs of the empty shipping containers.

“It would provide everything they need to get back up on their feet,” Welch said.

Welch said the facility will provide mental health care, job training, job placement and drug and alcohol counseling for residents, each of whom will be allowed to stay for one year.

“When you’re homeless, you don’t have an address,” Welch said. “You need an address and proof of residence to get a job.”

SIFE hopes to help homeless people more than facilities currently in place locally, which only offer temporary support.

“It is a really crucial thing because the St. Francis House only has 28 beds a night and it is hard for them [homeless people] to get a job without an address,” LeDuke said.

Welch said SIFE is teaming with various organizations to make the project happen including mental health specialists, the city of St. Augustine and the Emergency Services Homeless Coalition.

“We may not be experts in helping people in these situations but we can go out and find the right people,” Welch said.

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