ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla — Young people who are homeless in St. Augustine need your help.
Picture damage from flooding a few feet up the walls. That's what happened with sewage water at the youth homeless shelter Port in the Storm.
"We had a kitchen," said Executive Director Judith Dembowski. "We don't anymore."
The kitchen isn't the only part of the shelter that's ruined. It looks like flooding from a hurricane tore through Port in the Storm. The floors and a few feet up the walls are torn out.
"Much like a hurricane when they have to come through and rip out the floors and zip down everything," Dembowski said. "We lost all of that. Unfortunately, because it was sewer water, anything that was touching the floor also had to be thrown away."
Dembowski says five days before Christmas, a sewer backup pumped sewage into their homeless youth shelter for 18 hours. She didn't want to get into it, but says insurance won't cover it. The bill is $240,000.
"The vast majority of the young people that we work with have struggled with being doubled up or periods of homeless with their families or on their own prior to coming to Port in the Storm," Dembowski said. "So yeah, having to be moved out, especially five days before Christmas, it was a blow. It was a blow. This is their place. This is where they come to get away from the people that are victimizing them. This is where they come to get away from the dangers of the street."
About 10 young adults, ages 18 to 24, are now staying in a separate part of the adult homeless shelter downtown at night. Days before having to leave their home at Port in the Storm, residents crafted homes out of gingerbread. Those gingerbread houses still wait for them on a high shelf.
"This project was a dream that our assistant director, Karen Hensel and my partner in crime, we talked about for years and years and years," Dembowski sighed. "Getting it realized and having it up, our third anniversary is in June, so we haven't even had the space and been in operation for three years, and to just see it destroyed. It was a kick to the gut. It really was."
You can help Port in the Storm by donating to them here. Click the button in the top right corner reading "Help Port in the Storm."