Homelessness in St. Augustine

By Shinavia Gore | gargoyle@flagler.edu
Pictures by Shinavia Gore

Seamus, a homeless man in St. Augustine, said he sees himself as a free spirit.

Seamus, who is from Pennsylvania, has been homeless since he was 19 years old. “This year will be 24 years,” he said. “Too long.”

He said he originally became homeless because of his drug addiction to cocaine. “It screwed my life up,” he said.

Although Seamus has decided to stay in St. Augustine, he said he doesn’t really like the city because of the way the city treats homeless people.

“They treat you horrible in this town,” Seamus. He said he doesn’t like tourists who come to St. Augustine because they disrespect homeless people.

Seamus has lived under the bridge on State Road 312 for nine years. He said he also stays at hotels when he has enough money. He said he lives outside or in hotels because there is not enough room at the St. Francis House, the local homeless shelter in St. Augustine.

“The need to do a lot more for the shelters in this town,” he said. “They need a better shelter system.”

The St. Francis House in St. Augustine has 30 beds altogether, but is very overcrowded.

But not all homeless people think living without a home is difficult. Squid, a 20-year-old from Gainesville, who was eating a meal at the St. Francis House, has been traveling since he was 17, when his father died. He said the rest of his family doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.

Squid said he’s not like the homeless people who usually live homeless shelters, because he doesn’t beg for money and he likes being on his own.

“I’m never in the situation they’re in,” he said. “I like being on the road. It’s fun.”

Squid said he likes to do things like running from the police and dumpster-diving for food. He said he likes not knowing what happens next.

“This is actually a fun thing, and it’s a life-changing experience when you go traveling,” he said.

Although Dana De Lisi, the weekend cook at the St. Francis House, has only worked at the shelter for a few months, she said the homeless who eat there are very respectful.

“I’ve worked in homeless services pretty much since I’ve graduated at Flagler,” she said.

St. Francis House cook Dana De Lise stirs cabbage for the shelter's dining room full of hungry homeless.

De Lisi said the St. Francis House has plenty of food, but the shelter only has 30 beds altogether. When it gets cold outside, De Lisi said, the volunteers at the St. Francis House put mats on the dining room floor.

“We’re short on space,” De Lisi said. “We have such a large volume of people coming through here.”

Since Seamus doesn’t live at the St. Francis House, he does a lot of small jobs for money. Sometimes, he volunteers at the Dow Museum of the Arts & Sciences.

“I like helping people, he said.”

In 2010, the Flagler College Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) chapter launched Mission: Media, a program that lets St. Augustine’s Boys and Girls Club children control the news for a day. In Mission: Media, the children generate and develop story ideas in a “news budget” meeting that SPJ members lead before heading out into the field. Each SPJ member guides a few children through the city and helps them find and interview sources. After the children finish reporting, they return to the Flagler College Gargoyle office to write and publish their work here.

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