HOME AGAIN ST. JOHNS
By Sue Bjorkman
Just because ‘ending homelessness’ sounds like a dauntingly ambitious goal, doesn’t mean there aren’t people in St. Augustine who believe it is possible. Many, many committed people, working through more than 30 organizations, deeply believe in “Making Homelessness History.” It’s not just talk either; they’re avidly working toward this goal every day.
Ending homelessness is a challenge. A goal. It’s not going to happen 100 percent because of human nature, of choices. But we have to provide every opportunity for people not to be homeless,” says Troy Blevins, president of the non-profit organization Home Again St. Johns.
“We’re not in competition with any other charity. We’re here to assist the providers with the people who need help and fill in the gaps in homeless services,” Blevins adds.
Since Home Again was formed five years ago as the uniting force for area provider agencies, they’ve made significant strides. In cooperation with the Salvation Army, Home Again negotiated a 99-year lease on a 13.5 acre property on SR 207 to create a United Service Center. The plan is to provide a haven for the homeless; a place to find food, housing, and the kind of comprehensive care that sparks a catalyst for life-changing differences.
Of course, it hasn’t happened overnight, but as Blevins says, “the bulldozers are moving.” The engine of transformation is engaged.
Currently Home Again’s offices and the Salvation Army Social Services and Food Pantry co-exist on the property. Providers will offer the powerful remedies of primary healthcare, mental health and substance abuse help, domestic violence services, technical service training, basic education, job placement and homeless prevention services on-site. A dining hall, commercial kitchen and 100 housing units (two dormitory-style structures and single room apartments for men, women and families) complete the picture. ‘Home Again’ already runs Dining with Dignity and a shower/ laundry Drop-In Center.
It all happens thanks to community support, from organizations like the United Way, the City of St. Augustine, the St. Johns County’s Visitor & Convention Bureau, local businesses, civic organizations and individuals. In the “open market” building the Center would cost at least $1.5 million, but when businesses step up to offer donated materials and manpower, a power bigger than the almighty dollar takes over. The invaluable time and talents of volunteers keep things running, too.
“Right now we’re in major fundraising mode,” Blevins says. The Love Your Mother Benefit in September was a “huge success” and hopes are high for the success of the “Celebration of Lights” event in November. Blevins says he and the Board have never been more optimistic and committed to the cause. With the ultimate goal of transforming lives, they wouldn’t dream of doing any less.
For more information visit www. homeagainsj.org.
Editors Note: I think many of us here in St. Augustine can relate to the plight of being homeless. If there is anything that the year 2016 has taught us is that nothing will ever be the same in this life, and it is wise not to get too attached to our material belongings. However, some would argue that having fresh water to drink, food to eat, and some sort of shelter over our heads are just basic human needs. Anytime we can all work together to make this world a better place to live gives me hope in humanity.
~ Ed Toy