Renee Morris: Boy, have we had a summer!

As summer comes to a close and fall weather approaches, St. Francis House, St. Augustine’s only homeless shelter, is celebrating their 25th year of service for the homeless and needy in St. Johns County in the same 121 year old house.

“We are looking forward to moving to a bigger and better site where we can be of more help to our community.” Morris said. “Until then, we are doing some sprucing up with help from the Emergency Shelter Grant that helps us with renovating this old house.”

Morris explained, “The recession has hit hard for many of us in St. Johns County. I know that it is humbling to ask for help but that is why we are here.”

Morris pointed out that the shelter’s food pantry is probably being hit the hardest. She suggests, “When you go shopping, pickup the 2 for 1 specials and think of us. We always need can goods.”

Morris says that she’s looking forward to the Mayor’s Holiday
Lighting event on November 21st — the proceeds go to benefit the shelter’s building fund. Morris is excited about the day when the shelter will be able to move to better quarters so that St. Francis House can help more people.

In the interim, Morris offered these 10 things that you can do to help the homeless.

1. Do make eye contact and say “hello” to homeless persons. They often feel invisible and worthless. Let them know that they are still important.

2. Do hire a homeless person if you own or manage a business. Remember that he or she may need patience, extra support or mentoring.

3. Do give people information about shelters and soup kitchens when they ask you for money or a handout.
4. Do contribute a dollar or more every month to St. Johns County United Way, other agencies and non-profits who help the homeless and needy.

5. Do volunteer at the St. Francis House, or help in the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home.

6. Do tell your legislators and local elected officials that our community needs more affordable housing and childcare.

7. Do donate food, clothes, and toiletries to St. Francis House that are clean and practical.

8. Don’t give money to homeless panhandlers. They may not be homeless or even poor. Give them information about shelters and soup kitchens.

9. Don’t attack the homeless person. Attack the problem of homelessness in and around our community.

10. Don’t be afraid of homeless persons. Each one of them is somebody’s child.

Modified with permission from the Emergency Shelter and Homeless Coalition of Jacksonville

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