By Marissa Marinan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Again St. Johns Inc., a group that works to assist those without homes, is hoping to change the way St. Johns County and the city of St. Augustine deals with homelessness.
Homeless individuals are found sleeping on the sea wall at night, sitting on St. George Street and seeking shelter in the woods.
“[St. Johns County] has records that there are anywhere from 500-800 homeless people in the county including women, children and veterans,” City of St. Augustine Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said.
But Home Again St. Johns hopes to change those numbers by providing shelter to those in need.
“In this community I believe there is a lot of frustration with the way homeless people are cared for,” David Hoak of Home Again St. Johns said. “And it is basically a lack of caring for homeless people.”
Home Again St. Johns is in the planning stages of developing a one-stop homeless center off S.R. 207. They are leasing the Salvation Army’s 13.5-acre property, which already houses two buildings that will probably be moved, Hoak said. The land includes a large amount of woods behind the current buildings.
The center is envisioned to be a place where homeless people can come and get connected with the services they need, whether it be housing, medical assistance, food or job services, Hoak said.
Hoak said he believes the center will answer the questions many have about the homeless.
“Where should somebody, [who] doesn’t have a place to be, be able to go to engage with the support that they need to help them get back on their feet? Right now there’s not an appropriate place and that is what we are trying to work towards,” he said.
The vision of the center is to have several buildings, including one main building with dining services and offices where assessments of people can be conducted in order to identify what services they may need, Hoak said. The center will also feature a number of different types of housing environments, ranging from dormitories to single occupancy arrangements as well as family housing units.
“The idea is to create a multi-agency environment where people can go to one place and get connected with multiple services,” Hoak said.
Hoak said the center is “the starting position for the way back to self sufficiency for these people.”
Home Again St. Johns is just beginning to identify what services will be provided at the one-stop center and how the agencies who will run those services will work together.
Landing the location took almost two years and Hoak said he believes that it will take another two years to finish the center.