PUSH was invited to attend the Complete Count (US Census) committee on January 12, 2010 to kick off the census planning for the spring. All PUSH members were asked to brainstorm outreach ideas prior to the next meeting where Mary will bring printed materials and have more information about the website and a clearer idea of PUSH’s role.
Endorsement of relocation and expansion of St Francis House
Mary read portions of the January 1 article in the Record quoting Mr Jon Benoit, VP on the SFH Board of Directors, on the relocation and expansion project. Mr Benoit had contacted PUSH about a month ago to outline the vision and key aspects of moving away from simply sheltering to more comprehensive services. Much discussion followed. Mary noted the concept was aligned with one of PUSH’s major goals of a comprehensive and collaborative solution. The group agreed to endorse the project based on the stated vision and for the first time, concrete support from the county level. Consensus was unanimous.
Good food and tons of donations make Sunday January 10, the best party of the New Year;
Thanks to Resurrection Protestant Episcopal Church, Just Faith, Food Not Bombs, PUSH and its affiliates, over 70 people were served in the plaza Sunday night. The food was plentiful and very hearty and the atmosphere was positive and communal in spirit. People came from all over our community to drop off blankets, clothing, food, hygiene supplies and gifts during the event. Another 20 homeless were served out at our new location at the corner of Holmes and SR 207 at the same time. Whatever is happening is growing week by week.
For the first time ever, PUSH: People United to Stop Homelessness, signed up to participate in the Farm Worker Fair at Smith Farms in Elkton Florida. This is a great opportunity to bring resources to our farm workers who work so hard in our community to bring in the harvests and who may not always have the amenities most of us take for granted. When Malea Guirba, of Pie in the Sky in Hastings, noted in her column that her supplies lacked mens’ underwear, PUSH members collected packages of new mens underwear in various sizes and combined them in packs with razors and socks. We set up a table with many other groups who also brought toiletries, clothing and food.
For the second consecutive month, PUSH members united with affiliates to provide hot meals to the farm workers and community members who came to utilize the St Vincents Mobile Medical van services. The dynamic members of Armstrong Sea Community, under the tireless direction of Malinda “I can’t find my keys” Peeples, put out a hot meal of barbecue chicken while PUSH provided hot side dishes, drinks, desserts and serving supplies. Other groups brought hygiene supplies, clothing, socks, and shoes while Sea Community provided over 50 bags of groceries to take away.
Once again, PUSH came away with deepest respect for this tiny community of people who work so hard to take care of their own. We look forward to continuing this relationship as part of our efforts to expand out into the county and help where we can.
Also notable were Jon and JD’s efforts at renovating the Sea Community kitchen at little cost and great expertise and time on their part. Commissioner Ken Bryan has been instrumental in getting storage capacity for the center so Malinda will finally be able to get into her office and maybe find a safe place for her keys.
CENSUS UPDATE/ PUSH meeting
The county census committee agreed to purchase 720 pairs of heavy weight white socks to distribute to homeless citizens during the “hard to count” enumeration days of March 28, 30 and 31. Plans are to distribute some in the St Augustine area at locations that are helping homeless fill out census forms such as transitional housing and St Francis House and take most to Armstrong/Hastings for the hard to count population there. PUSH met with Bruce Fouracker from the regional census office last week and passed on a map noting November 09 locations and approximate numbers of homeless camps. PUSH conducted informative outreach to the homeless community, encouraging them to fill out the census form and passed out t shirts and bags with census logos to get the word out.
PUSH supplied more food and resources to the SEA community March outreach dinner/mobile medical van event. A yard sale was held to raise funds for more resources for local homeless people. The new movie on homeless camps was finished and previewed and is available for outreach/education presentations. The SEA community kitchen is now completely refurbished and safe to use.
MODIFICATION OF PUSH MISSION STATEMENT:
PUSH members agreed unanimously to amend the mission statement to include the impoverished, working poor, nearly homeless, underemployed and unemployed. The reworded mission statement will be posted on the website.
Terry made a presentation on homelessness to the UU. Mary spoke at the Democratic Club in February.
Undies Mondays: Sonda headed the effort to collect new underwear for the children being served in Hastings at the OUR Center. Hastings Medical Van support supplies. Brenda Ware at the Community Resource Center in Hastings sees about 10-20 people on the 3 other Mondays the medical van is not at Armstrong. Hygiene kits were supplied 2x to the resource center before resources dried up.
PUSH attended all ESHC and IST meetings, keeping linkages with various agencies open, particularly in the southwest part of the county. At the PUSH monthly meeting, members were updated on the continuing involvement and progress with the SEA community in Armstrong. The Undies Mondays project for the OUR center was ultimately discontinued due to lack of donations but Celebration Church from NW St Johns County has adopted the community and comes every third Sunday for a huge community event including food, clothing and supplies.
PUSH finally gets invited to something
April 22, 2010 David Hoak, United Way, convened a meeting of providers of homeless services to introduce Mike Davis, the new leader of Mayor Boles’ commission to address homelessness. Here were the goals stated for Home Again St Johns, the revitalized homeless solution commission:
1. Create adequate short-term housing options and supportive permanent housing options for those who are chronically homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
2. Create organizational structure that has wide stakeholder ownership and that results in clear leadership and coordination among service providers. This structure based on everyone having ownership of and equally participating in a comprehensive homeless management information system and coordination of funding.
3. Create a single place in the community for Triage/Connection with all services to homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
4. Create a system of outreach to those in need of service that brings them into the system as soon as their need is identified.
5. Adjust our local laws to reflect that everyone has a place to call home in our community and it is not acceptable to sleep or attempt to call home places not intended for human habitation.
PUSH attended the second meeting of the Home Again St Johns homelessness solutions commission on May 13. We stayed active in the SEA community in Armstrong’s efforts to construct and apply for non-profit status in order to provide better services to the farm worker community. We participated in SEA’s monthly outreach dinner/medical van visit. We attended the Integrated Services Team meeting. Notes from all are on our website.
PUSH continued to work on the homeless providers committee of Home Again St Johns, helped out at the SEA community outreach event and continued to support groups serving food to the hungry in the Plaza de Constitucion.
PUSH organized a meeting with city manager John Regan to pre-empt any ordinancing/litigation over use of the plaza for public food sharing. Members representing a coalition of groups dedicated to feeding hungry people in our community met with John Regan to discuss alternative serving sites to the gazebo at the Plaza de Constitucion.
Terry (Food Not Bombs), Becca and Sabrina (Feed the People), Laura (restaurant/business coalition organizer), Spike and JT (houseless), Al and Olivia Deinhart (Just Faith St Anastasia), Regine (Resurrection Episcopal Protestant Church), Mary (PUSH), Janet (individual associated with Anchor Faith) were in attendance.
Terry explained the purpose of the request for the meeting, intending to resolve city issues with use of the plaza for serving before it becomes an expensive litigated issue. John Regan gave his background leading to his familiarity with homelessness: personal and professional, including his position on the board of St Francis House.
Numbers of servings have increased over the last three years. It was noted most week nights see 40-60 people and Wednesdays and Sundays are especially busy, with some Sundays seeing over 150 hungry people. It was noted there is never any trouble, the group, assisted by the homeless, always clean up, tourists often stop by and are impressed at the activity, sometimes offering money to offset costs.
Al raised the idea of tables and chairs for people to sit and eat. John noted he would look into potential issues with that idea.
Mary encouraged Mr Regan to change the narrative with the business committee tasked by the mayor almost 2 years ago to find a solution for homelessness. The positive aspects of feeding hungry people unconditionally reflect well on the community and businesses need to see and appreciate this.
Two sites were suggested by Mr Regan for the group’s consideration:
The north side of the parking garage and behind the Lightner. Members of the group were tasked with surveying both sites and emailing their choice to Mary who will then contacted John with the group’s consensus. He promised to research possibilities with his staff and report back to the group as soon as possible.
PUSH continued to attend the Home Again St Johns homeless providers meetings and coordinate serving efforts with the city and the county. At this meeting, Mike Davis, chair, spoke of having a “services agencies expo” and numerous site suggestions were offered. Mary (PUSH) suggested early January as possible date as holidays will have passed, volunteers could be solicited for the point in time survey and any homeless attending could be informed of the importance of the upcoming count at the end of January. Committee seemed to agree. PUSH also continued supporting SEA community in the non profit project, the monthly outreach dinners and contributions from PUSH members of food, clothing and shoes.
PUSH attended the Home Again St Johns providers meeting and the Veteran Standdown was discussed as well as previous plans for a single point of entry for people in our county experiencing homelessness. This county proposed project has not moved forward and hopefully veteran information will be captured during the Stand Down in September. PUSH attended the Stand Down which hoped to accomplish the following:
– Eligibility screening for veterans benefits
– Obtaining a DD-214
– Enrollment in VA Health Care
– Health screenings
– Screening for service connected benefits
– Initial claims filings.
27 veterans were signed up during this remarkable outreach event. Pictures on PUSH website.
Celebration Lutheran served hot meals to community residents and farmworkers in the SEA community and passed out bags of groceries and clothing and PUSH members donated clothing and drinks and ice. Almost 70 people turned out to enjoy the food and to take advantage of the monthly visit by the St Vincents Medical Mobile Unit.
Mary Lawrence, PUSH co-founder, was asked to head a food sharing subcommittee of the Home Again St Johns commission. First meeting was September 22. Full notes on website but goals of thisad hoc committee are:
Discussion of current process of serving food to the county’s homeless and hungry and then a focus on three areas:
– Collection of resources
– Storage of resources
– Distribution of resources
PUSH also continued supporting local groups serving hungry and homeless citizens in the community as well as helping finalize non-profit plans for SEA community, , attending IST meetings and delivering bread supplies to the OUR center in Hastings, an ongoing project this year. PUSH members testified at the county planning and zoning commission in support of St Francis House’s projected move onto county property off South Dixie Highway, which was defeated 7-0 by the zoning commission due to intense pressure and fear mongering by St Gerards Campus. A sad defeat.
The food sharing subcommittee continued its work on streamlining distribution of healthy food to the community via a number of channels including help from Second Harvest and St Francis House’s kitchen. Discussions continued with the city on an appropriate alternate serving site so there will be ample parking for volunteers yet lighting and seating for diners.
The community forum on homelessness for electoral candidates on Oct 12 was cancelled. Only one candidate showed up although the cancellation notice evidently didn’t get to PUSH members nor about a dozen community members, including the homeless, who ended up walking downtown for a nice free meal.
PUSH assisted during JCPCares’ fabulous welcome back outreach in Armstrong at the SEA community. JCPCares members had filled back packs with warm clothing, hygiene products and socks for returning farmworkers.
Food sharing subcommittee met for the third time on October 20 and the following pilot program was agreed to:
– Effective November 1, 2010, food sharing in downtown St Augustine will commence behind the Lightner either in the parking lot at Bridge and Granada or under the drive through at the Financial Services Center across the street, pending weather.
– City will provide trashcans and keep the restrooms open until 7PM, 7 days a week, including holidays with overtime offset by proposed funding from business and civic groups.
– All groups except Food Not Bombs have accepted this venue. Negotiations among the Food Not Bombs collective are ongoing.
– Groups will inspect restrooms prior to closing each night. Mary Lawrence is point of contact for sanitation problems in the areas.
– Effective as scheduled: Food preparation, training and certification will commence at St Francis House under the supervision of Bob Richards. PUSH: People United to Stop Homelessness will offset cost of certification for servers unable to pay. Resources such as food and serving supplies will also be available. Various serving groups have already contacted Bob to get started. Bob will provide a schedule to the subcommittee when available.
– Effective as scheduled: Mobile serving sites based on GIS map locations will be addressed within the next two to three weeks. Salvation Army and Turning Point Church are currently set up to perform distribution of food, with Turning Point already addressing areas in north St Augustine. Sites requiring support were identified as US 1 North of the Winn Dixie, helipad at Health and Human Services on US 1 S, Holmes and 207 and Hastings. Salvation Army will require volunteers and location for mobile kitchen.
Committee will reconvene in mid November to assess the program.
A busy month for PUSH. PUSH members worked with Just Faith and the VA on a huge warm clothing, sleeping bag, blankets, socks giveaway on November 21 at the new serving site at Bridge and Granada Streets, made a presentation on homelessness among women in our county to the Enterprising Womens Leadership Institute, held informational signs for the fourth year in a row outside the Night of Lights fundraiser gala for St Francis House and continued to attend relevant meetings and offer input to city and county, while supporting as much as financially possible, various groups serving the hungry with food, transportation and supplies.
PUSH members cooperated with other groups and with huge donations from JCPCares Giving Tree and the community Housing department in St Augustine, was able to provide 100 hygiene kits, tons of hats, gloves and socks and some warm clothing and blankets for another holiday giveaway on December 19. The food sharing subcommittee met and assessed the pilot program. The only thing noted was a need for tighter scheduling, better communication and re evaluation of keeping the restrooms open later as this is underutilized. Serving groups underwent training on the Wiggio calendar website to be used for scheduling servings.