Coalition for the Homeless of Nassau County

The Coalition for the Homeless gives progress report and asks for volunteers for soup train and other activities

My friend Colson Hillier, who is in Dallas watching the Super Bowl live as I write this, sent me the minutes of the meeting of the Coalition for the Homeless of Nassau County, with the note that it might be of interest to highlight the activities of the Soup Train and its Meal on Wheels Program on SearchAmelia. While reading through the minutes I noticed that  the Cold Night Shelter, which we recently joined as ‘on-call-volunteers’, is part of the Coalition as well. All in all this coalition undertakes a lot of much needed activities to help the underprivileged in our local society. Here are the minutes of the January 20 meeting in full length.

Program Status Reports

Fernandina Beach Interfaith Dinner Network. Totals for 2010: 3595 guests served with an average of 69 individuals per dinner; 1117 were children. This program has been running since September 2008.

Yulee Interfaith Dinner Network. Program started in September 2010. There is now an average of 26 guests per dinner, with children comprising 30% of guests. Eight churches have committed to participate, with more volunteers being actively recruited. The bus is not running yet. Authorities at nearby trailer parks and the low income housing community need to be contacted about posting information about the availability of a bus to bring people to the dinners. Gracie Preache expects this to happen before February 15 and hopes that the bus route will start soon after.

Soup Train. The Council on Aging has identified 65 seniors that are eligible for the agency’s Meals on Wheels program, but currently there is no funding to provide meals for these homebound seniors (who are also physically unable to leave their homes to go to food programs). The Soup Train, initiated by the Coalition, will begin with a trial program to feed 20 of these seniors. Food will be provided through the Barnabas pantry; the Coalition will use organize volunteers to cook soup meals at the Yulee IDN kitchen; and the Council on Aging will freeze and then distribute the meals to the eligible seniors. Each week enough (frozen) soup will be provided to each senior for 2 days, with bread and a sweet added. Mary Clemens requested more volunteers and passed out a signup sheet as well as an information sheet on the soup train.

Cold Night Shelter. Since opening in November 2010, 137 sleeping mats have been occupied by overnight guests. The CNS has been open 27 nights so far. There are 16 volunteer groups and an on-call list when needed. 126 Volunteers have worked 1085 hours so far. There are 5 participating restaurants: Gourmet/Gourmet, Doo-Wop Café, Firehouse Subs, Sonny’s BBQ, Domino’s Pizza. Dani requested that Coalition members patronize the restaurants and/or thank them for their contributions to the program. The News-Leader is planning a feature story on the CNS.

New opportunities for discussion and possible action. Discussion groups are being formed around the two grant-funded research projects that were completed last fall — drop-in day resource center and the needs of the western part of the county – as well as the creation of a Coalition web site. A Board member will lead each discussion group with recommendations then going to the Board.

Homeless count– Pam Lee gave a brief overview of the plans for the one-day count on Monday, 1/24/11.

Guest speaker: Mayor Susan Steger thanked all the Coalition volunteers for their ongoing efforts and spoke about the FB Police Department’s policy about treating the homeless with respect and dignity. She also talked about the United Way “2-1-1” hotline and how it could be an important resource for the homeless here.

• Mayor Steger then opened the floor to hear from the membership. Tom Kessel described the homeless people that he works with: the largest population is male, with 1/3 of those seen at the CNS holding down jobs but not being able to afford housing in the area. Several members expressed the need for more low- income housing, transitional housing, transportation, and financial support. It was stated the city and county need to work together to solve these issues.

• LaVerne Mitchell of Women of Power stated their organization is planning to provide limited transitional housing out of a house on the corner of So. 9th and Cedar Streets for one or two women at a time. They hope to increase their capacity as funding becomes available; their organization needs financial support.

• Dani Gammel and Mayor Steger wrapped up the conversation by saying that big holes do exist. There is a need for shelters, day drop in centers, transportation (perhaps using the trolley system already existing in the city), affordable housing, transitional housing, and educating the public about homelessness. Dani suggested that another discussion workgroup be formed around transportation issues.

•  Lisa Mohn of Northeast Florida Community Action described their services and gave information on their new location on Jasmine Street in the old DCF office.

Publisher’s Note: Anyone reading this report should consider some way to get involved in aiding the less fortunate in our community. At Searchamelia we are prepared to offer our services in building the Coalition website mentioned.

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