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SJC leaders experience homelessness in Sleep Out Challenge

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12-04 homeless (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County leaders are choosing to experience what it’s like to be homeless to understand and reflect.

“A lot of times, especially in times of trouble like we are with this pandemic, we lose sight of the things that are going around us,” said Clay Murphy, Alpha Omega Miracle Home Board President. “We have issues right here with homelessness in St. Johns County and we need to shine the light on that.”

Alpha Omega Miracle Home in St. Augustine provides shelter and support to expectant mothers, their children and senior women for the past 21 years.

On Friday night, Alpha Omega is hosting the First Coast Sleep Out to raise awareness about homelessness in the county. Eleven local leaders will get a cardboard box and sleeping bag and their goal is to raise $100,000.

The mission is to help the faces of homelessness find shelter, support and hope.

“The Alpha and the Omega -- the beginning to the end, so paring the single moms with the senior women to give them value and share all their wisdom and all their experiences and remove the fear of being alone and then the single moms have an opportunity to learn from these women and be left on cared for,” said Kristin Thomas, Alpha Omega Miracle Home Community Liaison.

Thomas said the organization has 15 apartments to house women and their kids who are experiencing homelessness in the county. The money raised from the First Coast Sleep Out challenge will go toward a $10.7 million project to build 100 units of housing, a community care center and a daycare on Collins Avenue.

“We’re going to have residents here sharing their testimony,” said Thomas. “A mother who is homeless with her baby living in the car. She’s going to be sharing her testimony with the folks who are sleeping out and the incredible part really we have a mission field right here in our own backyard.”

The 11 men participating in the Sleep Out Challenge will only receive a cardboard box a sleeping bag and some soup. It’ll take place from 7 PM Friday  until 7 AM Saturday in whatever conditions mother nature presents itself.

“This gives people a personalized micro-view of what people are literally going through in Saint Johns County,” said Murphy. “I think it’s important for us to have that view to know this is an issue that we can solve if we pull together.”Murphy is joining ten others experiencing the Sleep Out Challenge to understand and reflect. The list includes—Rob Hardwick the St. Johns County Sheriff-Elect; Chris Pacetti, the City of St. Augustine Fire Department Chief of Operations; Greg Lulkoski with the St. Johns County Community Development Block Grant Housing and Community Services Division. Also, local business owners and leaders: Chris Shee, John Ginn, Clay Nettles, Clay Murphy, Vaughan Robison, Steve Alexander, Bobby Appleby, and Jay Owen.

“It’s probably not going to be comfortable probably not getting a good night’s sleep probably come out of it understanding a little bit more what it’s like to go through that,” said Ginn. “It really hit home with me and it’s hard to imagine children in that situation and if we could do something about it I want to be part of it.”

“I want to fix what’s in our own backyard first and that’s my main mission and so for us to come out and support Alpha Omega,” Shee said. “The resources that I am given in the success that I’ve had, it’s no coincidence. I really believe it’s of a higher power and I believe that the Lord has given me these resources not to store my pocket but to give back and for me to be a conduit to the causes that he wants us to support.”

The organization said last year, in St. Johns County Schools 787 children are homeless. That’s 2% of the kids enrolled and those they want to help. The goal today and the hope for the future is to support women transitioning out of poverty.

If you would like to donate to the First Coast Sleep Out Challenge you can do so online.

Alpha Omega also has two thrift stores on San Marco Boulevard and Southside Boulevard.


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