Crystal River, FL, December 01, 2011 --(PR.com
)-- The homeless in rural Florida have proven that they can help each other without paid staff, when given the proper resources. Homeless veterans, men, women, and children have shown that they can take a hand up, instead of a handout, and get their lives back in order. In less than three years there are now five shelters; two for homeless Veterans. Over one thousand people were helped back into society by using fewer dollars and more sense. Their success record is 80%, which is much higher than the national average. There are no security cameras or locked doors. Their foundation is that no one should lose their freedoms that so many Veterans have died for, unless they are a criminal.
Their Veteran's shelter was opened on less than $5000, and a lot of faith. It is now approaching its second year of operation. In the past two months, ten Veterans returned to society into their own homes after receiving their much deserved benefits. Similar shelters were built using millions. Formerly homeless Veterans run the shelter, after being helped themselves. All give a volunteer commitment. Fund raising is now in progress to increase their capacity. Their second shelter was designed after the John Wayne-type outposts in the old west. In rural areas, the homeless have to walk between 12-50 miles for help and services. The outpost provides meals, shelter, laundry, showers, and much more. It serves many Veterans living in the woods and swamps, and those traveling around the country. The model has been highly successful. Their next project is a mobile command center called Angels on Wheels. It will be able to help Veterans in any area with full service. The mobile vehicle will enable the Mission in Citrus to reach out to many Veterans, who are currently receiving little to no help.
“If we do not help them, who will?”
The Mission in Citrus Homeless Shelters were founded in 2008, after the Executive Director became homeless himself. His findings showed that traditional shelters were not working, and too much of their budgets were spent on administration expenses, and not on the residents. Too many criminalize homelessness. Most homeless are not criminals, they just need the resources to get their lives back in order. A hand up, not a hand out. The focus is on jobs, and their Hire the Homeless program has been highly successful. The residents also help operate the shelter by paying for their upkeep, once they find employment or receive disability. They volunteer thousands of hours to Habitat for Humanity, area food banks, Sertoma Club, Lion's Club, and many other non profits. No one is allowed to sit around. All earn their keep.
They have overcome many obstacles in the past three years, from 60 tents to 5 shelters. They had major fights with everyone from the Fire Marshal, Sheriff’s Dept, and many other agencies, including County Commissioners. They now have positive working relationships with all of them. They have earned their respect. They still have a long way to go. Grant writing is hard because there is little time after helping so many people each day. They beg for 80% of their operating funds using collections sites, such as Walmart, and County flea markets. Over 1000 people were helped last year with less than $100,000. The Mission in Citrus continues to fight for homeless rights. Their emails are sent to numerous government officials each day. Homelessness can decrease through more accountability of dollars. One shelter gets Federal funds, while operating at an annual cost of $38,000 a bed.
Their residents age from four days old to 72 years old. The new face of homelessness has become many homeless women and children. They are expecting six new babies in the next month. The days of the old homeless stereotype are over. The present economy is taking no prisoners.
Their long term goals are to share their system with others, and to increase their homeless Veterans beds by 150 by buying a motel. They soon hope to start a successful in-house drug and alcohol treatment shelter. The Mission in Citrus could easily become a movie as so many miracles have occurred there. When the Director turned 50 this year, over 100 former residents visited, Facebooked him, emailed, or called. That does not happen at normal shelters. They take great pride as they have become a family, and lift each other up. They have two quotes. “If we do not help them…Who will?” and “We follow the parable of the good Samaritan.” We help all in need. In their history, they have never failed to feed and help anyone who has entered their gates. They even take food and water into the woods and swamps for many hard core Veterans, who have lost faith in society.
About The Mission In Citrus
Their Mission is to help all in need to the best of their ability. They follow the parable of the Good Samaritan, as there are no requirements for their services. They constantly reinvent the wheel to make it all work. The faces of homelessness can change as well as each individual’s circumstances. And there have been very few that they have not been able to help. Veterans have become their priority as they have seen their suffering the most.