INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Before Greg Jordan moved to Camp Haven homeless shelter nine months ago, he was living in his golf cart in Barefoot Bay in Brevard County.
The 55-year-old said he worked at the Moorings Yacht & Country Club before being laid off in August 2017. Without family in the area to help, Jordan said he fell behind on his mortgage and lost his home, declared bankruptcy and was without shelter for two months.
A friend referred Jordan to Camp Haven, where he now lives. Jordan said he later found new employment with Grand Harbor Golf & Country Club, where he is working to save enough cash to move out and live on his own.
“I’m very happy and blessed to be here,” Jordan said. “The staff are wonderful. They have counselors to help you through your problems.”
People like Jordan received a ‘blessing’ Saturday morning when volunteers delivered food – including burgers – and school supplies to the homeless living in wooded areas and shelters across Indian River County. The purpose: to raise awareness about what organizers see as a homeless epidemic and to let those without know they have not been forgotten.
The group – called Big Burger Blessing – met about 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the McDonald’s near U.S. 1 and Oslo Road. About 20 to 30 residents delivered $1,500 worth of school supplies and $500 worth of food to four shelters – two of which house families – and those living in the woodlands.
“We take for granted that we can go to McDonald’s and get our kids a happy meal. These people can’t,” Community advocate Michael Marsh said. “This is a way to show people the other side of the homeless problem and put a face on it. You don’t think of kids when you think of homelessness.”
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Community advocate Michael Marsh talks about #BigBurgerBlessing where he and other residents will give $1,500 worth of school supplies and $500 worth of food to the homeless. Here what he has to say.
Posted by Nick Samuel on Saturday, August 11, 2018
The school supplies for students included book bags, notebooks, calculators and more. Classes for the upcoming school year will start Monday, according to the School District of Indian River County.
“If students are homeless, how can they focus in school? What would it take to have a trailer on campus property to act as an emergency trailer?” said Marsh, 34, of south county.
There were 317 adults and 130 children reported as homeless in January 2018 in Indian River County, according to data from the Treasure Coast Homeless Services Council. The council classified homelessness as those living in shelters, sleeping on the street, in vehicles, in the woods or a camp.
The food delivered to the homeless included McDonald’s hamburgers, cheeseburgers, nuggets, 1,000 bottles of water, watermelon and a barbecue pan from Wes’ Backyard BBQ & Grill.
McDonald’s manager Diana Youmans said Marsh’s actions were great for the community.
“All these different people in the county saw a need and wanted to pitch in,” Marsh said. “It’s nice to see there’s still humanity out there to care about the homeless. I hope it sparks others to do the same thing.”
Shelters who received the donations were Hope for Families Center, Hibiscus Children’s Center, Camp Haven and Samaritan Center. Marsh said he plans to organize similar events in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
A variety of circumstances can lead to people becoming homeless, including losing jobs and making bad financial decisions, Hope for Families Residence Manager Lorenzo Lockett said.
Lockett said Hope for Families focuses on getting adults back to work. Residents are required to search for a job, have a job or complete community service.
Once residents find work, they have to open a bank savings account and save 75 percent of their income, according to Lockett. Lockett said the center gives assistance to residents with counseling and budgeting in addition to food, shelter and clothing.
The shelter has limited space, with 21 rooms and 84 beds. The facility completes criminal background checks before admitting residents and has a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, Lockett said.
Families usually stay at the center for three months before finding an apartment and moving out. Lockett said an emergency wing at the building is used for people that staff members find on the streets.
“We take them in before we do the background checks,” Lockett said. “We don’t want them waiting in the elements.”
Hope for Families and the Samaritan Center are the only two homeless family shelters in the area, Lockett said. Camp Haven houses single men and Hibiscus Children’s Center houses youth.
Camp Haven helps guide men with spiritual teachings, financial counseling, finding a job and self-sufficiency, Executive Director Chuck Bradley said. The 17-room facility also gives men basic necessities such as food, clothing, and toiletries.
“People look at homeless men differently. Men are supposed to be tough and breadwinners,” Bradley said. “Those are societal stereotypes. Anybody can be broken. You never know what happened in someone’s life.”
How you can help
Those interested in volunteering at Hope for Families should contact Molly Mills at 772-567-5537 ext. 335 or email@example.com. Anyone who wants to volunteer with the Samaritan Center should visit its website.
Those interested in volunteering at Hibiscus Children’s Center should contact Donna Clements at 772-299-6011 ext. 334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors and sponsors for Big Burger Blessing
- Jeremy Odom, McDonald’s owner
- Wes’ Backyard BBQ & Grill
- Lacey Dahl
- Florida Young Democrats of Indian River
- 24/7 Bail Bonds
- Shawn Elliott, IRC Soil & Water Conservation District Seat 1 candidate
- Nicole Haagenson, District 54 State House candidate
- Ruben Bermudez, School Board candidate
- Jacqueline Rosario, School Board candidate
Photos by Nick Samuel and Michael Marsh