Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeless People Should Accept Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeless People Should Accept Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Thirteen years ago, I caught a glimpse of what Jeanne Miller must be dealing with today.

That was when, as part of a Times-Union project, I teamed up with a male reporter and photographer to learn what it was like to be homeless here. One of the reasons I volunteered for the project was because I knew that the women's stories had to be told.

I tried to do that by spending two nights at the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless. There I shared bunk space with a mother and a daughter who had landed there because they lost their jobs at the same time.

I talked to women who were recovering from drug addictions and struggling with mental illnesses, and another who had followed a man to Jacksonville who had promised her and her two daughters a better life - but apparently forgot that promise once he got inside the city limits; he began to abuse her.

DANGERS OF THE STREETS

I also tried to do that by talking to women who were sleeping in concrete tubes on Jacksonville Beach.

These were women who, either for reasons of mental instability or some misguided sense of individualism, shunned going into town to stay at one of the homeless shelters.

But they were frank about the perils.

Being homeless had them constantly fending off threats of sexual assault, as well as men who would offer to help them but who were more interested in using them.

Which is why Miller, a formerly privileged Ponte Vedra woman who is now homeless, might be better off taking her chances at finding help at a homeless shelter rather than sleeping in her car.

The 61-year-old woman recently told The Times-Union her story; a story of how a car accident, a job loss and a battle with cancer left her destitute.

She keeps the remnants of a life that once included golf and social affairs in a storage unit. …

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