JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — More help for the homeless at beaches along the First Coast is being put into action this weekend.
A cold weather shelter opens at St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church, and it's using new funding from the Atlantic Beach City Commission.
The parish hall at the church, which is at 1150 5th Street North, will open Friday at noon through Monday to house the nearly 50 people who are homeless at the beach, according to Tracy Gebeaux with Jax Beach Brother's Keeper.
"It is just an opportunity for people at the beach to give the less fortunate, the homeless, a place to go especially in the weather that is about to hit us," Gebeaux said.
There's nowhere for people who are homeless to sleep at Jacksonville's beaches besides outside. Gebeaux spends his days feeding people who are homeless there. He knows what it's like because he went through it in 2008.
"When the economy crashed, I went from making a good amount of money to making no money,' he said. "I didn't ask for help and I lost everything and was sleeping in my own truck right there at the pier."
The Atlantic Beach City Commission approved outgoing Mayor Ellen Glasser's action to provide St. Paul's by the Sea with $1500 in grant money to fund its cold weather shelter and the same amount for Mission House to provide food.
"With those grants and with those things, hopefully we'll be able to expand a little bit and be able to give more food, more clothing, more gloves, hand warmers, socks, knit hats, love," Gebeaux said.
The grant money was approved at the November meeting where the commission passed an ordinance creating steps police must follow that could result in an arrest, as a last resort, for sleeping outside and blocking public spaces.