Groundbreaking set for homeless shelter

By Troy MacNeill |
It was just a dream seven or eight years ago. Now it’s becoming a reality.
A non-profit organization plans to break ground on a new shelter for the homeless in St. Johns County. The groundbreaking ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 12 at the building site along State Road 207.
“We’re looking at having it all ready in 18 months,” said Kathleen Guy-Johanessen, director of development for Home Again St. Johns.
Home Again, which was founded in 2011, is calling its shelter the United Service Center.
“The United Service Center will be a one-stop shop,” said Paul Coombes, the outreach coordinator at Home Again. “It will have health services, social services, playgrounds and housing.”
The story of Bob Foster helps illustrate the need for a homeless shelter. Foster is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He said he fought in the Vietnam War and had nothing when he returned home. After wandering across the United States, he said he finally found himself in St. Augustine and ended up at Home Again St. Johns.
One of the first steps Home Again takes when assisting the homeless is to make sure they have what they need to find a job or somehow improve their straits. In Foster’s case, it meant helping him get a Florida identification card so that he could look for work.
Coombes said he’s had troubles of his own.
“I’ve been in Bob’s shoes and used Home Again to help me,” Coombes said. “I know that he is working hard to get back on his feet.”
The workers at Home Again also help transport the homeless to doctor appointments, provide clothes and food and sometimes they are there just to listen and talk to the homeless.
“We’re here every day of the week to help,” said Coombes. “Whether it is providing transportation or a hot meal every night. Just anything we can do to help them.”
In January, Home Again was named the lead agency for homelessness in St. Johns County.
The group is using money from private donors as well as government and hospital funds to build its one-stop center, which will provide permanent and temporary housing and other services for the homeless.
“The service center will have a medical center that we are building with the help of the local hospital. There will also be a main office building with a food bank and a cafeteria that we are building,” said Guy-Johanessen.
The center is set to be completed in August 2017.
Photo credit: Home Again St. Johns

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