Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau County Attempts to Put Together Homeless Tally; It's the First Time the Effort Has Been Made; 71 Are Identified

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau County Attempts to Put Together Homeless Tally; It's the First Time the Effort Has Been Made; 71 Are Identified

Article excerpt


FERNANDINA BEACH - Tracy Brim is living at the Little House Ministries on South 14th Street with her children. She's gotten a job and is paying off $3,000 in bills. She came here months ago from Michigan, after having left her husband. They are back together now. He lives in the men's quarters next door.

"If only we could find an affordable place to live," she said Monday. "We have a car but our drivers' licenses are suspended so we can't drive or live off island. He has a job, too."

She and her husband can't qualify to live in rent-subsidized apartments because he has an old felony charge. Federal Housing Authority rules prohibit anyone with a felony record from living in its complexes.

And she can't find day care at night or on the weekends, so that limits what jobs she can get and how much she can get paid.

"It's so expensive here," she said. "We really don't know what we'll do."

Brim is one of 10 homeless women and children living in the Little House Ministries, sponsored by the First Assembly of God. On Monday, there were 18 men living in the male quarters behind the church.

They are among the 71 homeless identified Monday by 40 volunteers in six zones around Nassau County as part of a national effort to count the nation's homeless. It was the first time Nassau County has tried to tally its homeless.

Final figures are not yet in, but organizers say of the 71, 49 were in some type of shelter, 41 were men and boys and 43 were older than 18.

Volunteers and Fernandina Beach police officers counting the homeless on Amelia Island didn't find any people living outside on Monday, maybe the coldest day of the year so far.

They did, however, find evidence that people were living in the woods behind Kmart on Sadler Road. Volunteers found a small rotting pig, garbage and a supermarket grocery cart turned on its side full of trash. There were blankets and plastic dishes stashed in a plastic bag in some bushes. There were paint balls, an indication paint-ball players frequent the area, too.

Volunteers Malcolm and Barbara Noden rode with officer Jon Hepler and surveyed the south end of the island. A state park worker at the south end's George Crady Bridge State Fishing Pier said park rangers don't see many homeless, but the ones they do are transient.

Jim Kelly, owner of the Sea Horse Stables, said he sees more transient homeless in the spring and summer. If he has a problem, he calls park officers.

"When you see them pushing all their belongings in a basket, or carrying their belongings in backpacks riding their bicycles, you know they are homeless," he said. "They're really not troublemakers. Some probably have some mental problems."

The Amelia Island volunteers ended their search with a visit to Little House Ministries.

Malcolm Noden, a retired economics professor and chairman of Sutton Place Behavioral Health's board of directors, asked many questions of the police and of those living at Little House Ministries. …

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