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St. Johns homeless center has a garden hose for a shower, no drinking water

One of Florida's richest counties has a homeless center that barely has the necessities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One hose. That’s what the St. Johns County government is providing the homeless to shower with at the homeless center. 

'Home Again St. Johns' used to sit on State Road 207 until the St. Johns County government forced the program to move in order to build affordable housing on that site.

With little time to find another site, Home Again had to quickly rent a trailer for $5,000 a month. That trailer offers far less to the homeless than the former site.

"We really do the best we can," Home Again St. Johns Executive Director Ellen Walden said. 

However, there’s only one bathroom for 35 homeless people.

The trailer has water, but you can’t drink it.

"So we tote water," Walden said. They bring the water in in gallon jugs from her home.

One garden hose outside serves as a shower.

"Showers are important because we’ve got to keep these people working," Walden said. 

There's no kitchen to make meals. 

There's no septic or sewer. There's just a tank to hold human waste which sits outside of the trailer. 

"The sewer tank will fill up. It starts stinking really bad," Chester Holsten said. He is currently homeless and volunteers at the the center. 

The previous location had several washing machines and dryers, of which there are none at the new location.

Walden takes the laundry of the folks who have jobs. She washes the clothes at her own home, and she brings them back so they can stay employed.

Walden said she and the Home Again St. Johns Board of Directors had been communicating with county staff for months about a new site.

But when St. Johns County – one of the richest counties in Florida -- was deciding how to divvy up federal COVID relief funding this month, Home Again St. Johns wasn’t even on the list.

Walden, her colleagues, and community members pleaded with county commissioners Tuesday to reconsider and they did.

"I find  it wonderful that the commissioners listened to us," Walden said  

"They stepped up and went against the recommendations of county staff, which in all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen that happen. I am thankful."

No word yet how much money the county will provide to Home Again St. Johns.

"We are really hoping that the county will see fit to make us whole again," Walden said.

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