Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Emergency Aid Group Stretching Resources; Decline in Affordable Housing Pushes Need

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Emergency Aid Group Stretching Resources; Decline in Affordable Housing Pushes Need

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- A loss of affordable housing at the Beaches is placing record-breaking demands on Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, a non-profit group that can't keep up with the demand for food and financial assistance.

Despite better-than-average contributions of about $85,000 so far this year, BEAM volunteers are giving away food faster then they can restock the shelves, BEAM Chairwoman Vivian Southwell said.

"We're not keeping up with the level of need," she said.

The ministry provides food, utility bill assistance and other services and referrals to help keep families from becoming homeless. The program, which began in 1985 through the effort of area churches, receives most of its donations from churches, civic organizations and corporations.

Last year, BEAM gave out about 49,000 pounds, or nearly 25 tons, of food, Southwell said. The agency gave out 3 tons of food in July alone, Southwell said.

High electric bills and gas prices aren't the primary reasons why residents are coming in for help, but the loss of their homes, she said.

Buccaneer Mobile Home Park, where 135 families used to live on Mayport Road, issued eviction notices in October 2004. Two other mobile home parks off Mayport Road are also closing, and the Atlantic Arms Apartments on Cornell Lane off Atlantic Boulevard was condemned six weeks ago. Its residents have until today to move out. Four other Beaches mobile home parks have closed in the last five or six years.

"It's really been intense at the Beaches," Southwell said.

Other agencies that work with BEAM are also seeing the effect of the loss of affordable housing.

Beaches Habit for Humanity, a branch of the non-denominational Christian housing organization, has noticed an increase in the number of applicants who don't qualify for the housing program, family services director Joyce Freeman said.

To be eligible, candidates must have a minimum income of $1,200 a month. …

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