After a year of site reviews and meetings, Home Again St. Johns Inc. Site Selection Committee recommends that the property located at 1850 SR 207 is the right location for a comprehensive one-stop center for service for the homeless.
The Site Selection Committee, chaired by City Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman, is made up primarily of local community leaders. The Committee was created earlier in the year to identify and gain approval of a site appropriate for the development of a One -Stop-Center for the homeless in St. Johns County. Committee members are: Leanna Freeman, Vice-Mayor of St. Augustine; Mike Davis, President A.D. Davis Construction; Jerry Cameron, St. Johns County Assistant County Administrator; Diane Keesling; A.J. McGuiness; David Shoar, St. Johns County Sheriff; Mary Lawrence; Joe Joyner, Superintendant St. Johns County Schools; Benjamin Coney; Mark Miner, St. Johns County Commissioner; Al Deinhart; Steve Fricke, Administrative Commander St. Augustine Police Department; and David Hoak.
The Site Selection Committee reviewed over a dozen possible locations throughout the county and settled on the 207 location primarily due its approximate 13.5 acre size and the ability to secure use of the property at nominal cost. The group required a large parcel because of its desire to have room to meet current needs, provide room for expansion and provide a natural buffer to the project from neighbors. This location, which is two miles from SR312, will require a transportation plan. However, the committee believes that transportation is a resolvable challenge with proper planning, and points out that other challenges such as too small a footprint or a location that is incompatible with surrounding use would be more difficult to overcome.
The SR 207 site is owned by the Salvation Army and under the current plans the Salvation Army would continue to own the property and Home Again St. Johns, Inc. would have a long-term nominal fee lease on the property. St. Johns County will require that social services be provided at both the south Dixie location as well as the 207 location with the goal of enhancing overall social services in the community.
The St. Francis House has been and continues to be an active participant in Home Again St. Johns, Inc., since its formation in 2008. St. Francis House recognizes that it will be years before this proposed facility is completed and is continuing to address the current needs of the homeless in order to bridge the gap to the opening of this one-stop-center. They recently increased their services on Washington Street and are working with the City to enforce the no camping ordinance in the downtown area.
The Site Selection committee believes that it will take the entire community to make the goal of a one-stop-center a success. The business community, the provider community, citizens and local government will have to support the project financially and provide approval of the ongoing efforts. Home Again will contract with and coordinate existing agencies to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive centralized center for homeless services such as referrals, housing, hot meals, food pantry, job placement services and a training center. A Site Development Committee is being formed to work with the community in creating the plan for this site.
The Site Selection committee anticipates that leases between the County and the Salvation Army with the social service contingencies will be approved by the County Commission soon.
The Site Selection Committee believes that multiple agencies working together on one site is the most effective approach to breaking the cycle of homelessness and setting people on the road to being self sufficient, productive citizens. Multiple agencies working together provides the additional leverage needed in both service provision and fundraising.