It’s Happening: Homeless One-Stop Center in St. Augustine

By Sarah Williamson|
Photo by Sarah Williamson

davidhoak-4393After months of planning, Home Again St. Johns has began fundraising and organizing the development of the one-stop center for the homeless on State Road 207. The facility will eventually be home to six, 5,000 sq./ft. buildings providing housing, healthcare, job training, mental health, substance abuse and basic education services.

Home Again St. Johns began as a local non-profit in 2009 with staff support from United Way of St. Johns County. Their goal is to redefine how the county deals with homelessness as well as open doors to more services.

“Today, this community’s solution to homeless people is, if you can’t afford a place to live, you go to Walmart, get a tent and set up in the woods somewhere. You don’t show up in the wrong places and you stay quiet. If the sheriff deputy shows up and says you have to move, you say, ‘yes sir,’ pick yourself up and move,” said David Hoak (photo, above), executive director of Home Again.

According to David Hoak the one-stop facility on SR 207 will be a milestone for St. Augustine, where there are not enough beds to house the homeless or collaboration among supportive agencies.

The project has grown significantly since 2009 with an active group of board members and last month, Diane Quick joined the staff as the Director of Development—her year’s salary co-sponsored by two supportive Northeast Florida families.

Quick will be in charge of fundraising, grant writing and PR for the one-stop center. Her current project is “1000 Friends for Home Again” with a goal to raise $100,000 to kick-start development of the property.

“The theory is if 1,000 friends were to give $100 a piece—which is not a lot of money for upper income levels—that’d be 100,000 dollars that’d come in in a short period of time,” said Quick.

Quick said in the past she’s seen a lot of money come from the city to support non-profits but the community raises funds more efficiently.

“Sometimes when you go after the big bucks from government agencies you have to jump through a lot of hoops before and after to receive money from those agencies,” said Quick. “I want to try to get money quickly to get things going.”

Since 2009, Hoak, along with business and community leaders, have reviewed current costs of homelessness in the area, developed an information card with resources for the homeless called “Opening Doors” and organized “Dining With Dignity”, a nightly meal served downtown on Grenada Street.

In January, Home Again moved its offices next to Salvation Army’s Social Services on SR 207 and made an agreement to lease the 13.5 acres for $1 a year.

Currently, there are meals provided at the office Wednesday and Sunday evenings and soon they will provide a laundry service— a prequel to what the facility will offer in the future.

It is convenient being next door to Salvation Army, said Hoak, because one of the goals of the Home Again facility is to merge local agencies working for the same cause. Hoak said St. Francis House is still looking to expand—after previously being denied a location from the county— and will be on the property.

Hoak says Dining With Dignity will eventually be moved to the SR 207 location, understanding that leaving the downtown area will require transportation to and from the facility for those who don’t wish to stay the night.

Al Dinehart, coordinator of Dining With Dignity, has been organizing the meals since it began in 2010. He stated concern of the meals moving further outside of downtown, especially for the homeless population that does not want to be connected to an agency.

Hoak said it is not yet a concern to the homeless, who are worried about their next meal and not about “a distance horizon out on 207”.

Either way, “We will still be serving a hot meal to the homeless population, someplace, somewhere—we’ll get everyone out there,” said Dinehart.

There are many steps ahead. While Quick is busy fundraising for the initial development of the 13.5 acres, Hoak has began the process of having planning and zoning approved by the county.

According to Hoak, this could take months.

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