Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Groups Find Ways to Help Homeless

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Groups Find Ways to Help Homeless

Article excerpt

Byline: LAUREN DARM

With more than 400 homeless per year, the issue is of great concern to the Orange Park community.

"There are no homeless shelters in Clay County. That's a big problem," said Faye Mayhall, co-founder of the Mercy Network and a Salvation Army social services case worker.

Charitable organizations have made several attempts to bring a homeless shelter to Orange Park, but the community doesn't seem to want one, said Pearl Boles, pastor of Orange Park United Methodist Church's Good Samaritan ministry. Issues like zoning, transportation and women-to-men ratios prevent the city from approving the idea.

The majority of the community doesn't understand the magnitude of the homeless situation in Clay County, according to Cat Bowden, director of mercy ministry at Pinewood Presbyterian Church and co-founder of the Mercy Network. At least one-quarter of Clay County residents are one paycheck away from being homeless, Bowden said.

"There are a lot of misconceptions," Bowden said. "I don't want to make excuses for someone, but let's look inside and see what's really going on."

The problem is people think drugs and alcoholism are the major issues leading to homelessness, but homelessness more often results from domestic violence, divorce, job loss, mental illness and other medical conditions, Bowden said. Usually depression causes people to turn to drugs and alcohol after - not before - they become homeless.

Families make up 50 percent of the homeless population in Clay County, Boles said. Many Orange Park residents normally pay rents of at least $500 a month, Boles added, while the income for some is between $600 and $800 per month. Divorce and domestic violence can add more pressures to family finances. Statistics show a mother's income will decrease by 40 percent after a divorce while a father's will increase by 60 percent, Bowden said.

"Some get down in a deep, dark hole, and they don't think they can get out of it," Mayhall said. "They lose all hope."

The Salvation Army, Mercy Network, Orange Park United Methodist Church and other organizations are trying to provide the homeless with help and hope. …

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