Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Free Care for Homeless a Godsend Diverse Mix of Kids Hasn't Been a Big Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Free Care for Homeless a Godsend Diverse Mix of Kids Hasn't Been a Big Issue

Article excerpt

A year ago, Sarah Brown got "stuck" in Jacksonville with no money, no identification and no credit cards.

The 37-year-old single parent had left New York with two of her children to make a new life in Ocala.

While changing buses at the Jacksonville terminal, she lost her purse and "got stuck here with nothing to prove who I was."

It was the best thing that could have happened to her, the soft-spoken Brown now says.

Her dream of buying a house in limbo, she began living at the City Rescue Mission's homeless shelter. With no money for day care, she was unable to look for a job.

But Brown immediately found help. The Salvation Army had just opened a new day-care center at 328 N. Ocean St. where she could keep her kids free.

Brown, who once kept children at her home in New York, soon found work. Her polite, professional demeanor so impressed center officials that they offered her a job.

The two-story, 7,500-square-foot Child Development Center, which opened in March 1998, is the only facility in Northeast Florida offering free day care for homeless youngsters.

Since it opened, the center has added a summer day camp for children ages 5 to 12. This fall, before- and after-school care also will be available.

The center, which has received $358,227 from the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary, corporations, foundations and individuals, has 102 children and is licensed for 125. It has 25 slots for homeless children. Others enrolled are children who are subsidized through the Jacksonville Children's Commission and children whose parents can pay.

Helen Lee, who works at CSX Transportation, said she chose the center for her 2-year-old son, Joseph Lannan, because of its downtown location and bright, clean atmosphere.

The diverse mix of children "wasn't a concern or a consideration at all," she said. …

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