by SUE QUIGLEY
HERNANDO SUN WRITER
In 2017, a point-in-time count on just one night throughout America, found that more than a half a million people were homeless, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Homelessness is described as “persons without a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence,” as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Causes of homelessness are diverse and numerous and affect men more than women. Reasons include lack of affordable housing, divorce, domestic abuse, low-paying jobs, substance abuse and more. Many segments of the population are affected, including the aged, youth, Veterans, ex-convicts and families and children.
In this county, faith-based organizations and caregivers determined last year that several hundred persons are homeless, much higher than the number of sheltered accommodation available to the homeless.
These numbers include people being sheltered in temporary quarters, plus those living ‘rough.’ Some prefer to live alone, others hunker down with similar homeless people in encampments throughout the county, mostly along the U.S. 19 and State Road 50 thoroughfares.
The community of homeless people in the United States is aided by governmental, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based organizations that strive to help the needy and homeless.
One organization that operates in Hernando and Pasco counties is Jericho Road Ministries. The ministry was incorporated as a nonprofit by the Rev. Bruce Gimbel in 1998, and is dedicated to helping those in need.
Its mission is “to help people live more fulfilling lives by meeting their spiritual and material needs. We are a home, a school, and a lighthouse for those seeking change,” said Pastor Andrew Chamberlin, the executive director of Jericho Road Ministries.
Chamberlin, who was newly appointed in August 2018, explained that there is a lack of beds in the county and homeless people seeking shelter, particularly in the recent cold weather, could still be turned away.
Jericho Road Ministries does important work to help the homeless in Hernando County. It operates a men’s shelter at 1090 Mondon Hill Road, and a women’s shelter called “Mary’s House” at 1163 Howell Road.Last year, the shelters served 402 men; 115 women, 52 children and 29 family units, according to ministry’s records.
One of the ways, Jericho Road Ministries is able to help the homeless is with income generated from its thrift stores that support its shelters and food bank.
The organization now operates four thrift stores, the fourth — an 8,000-square-foot store — recently opened Jan. 11, 2019 on County Line Road. Profits from all four stores help provide funds for Jericho Road Ministries’ shelters. Those facilities include Joshua House on Broad Street in Brooksville and another men’s shelter on Mondon Hill Road, a family shelter, Mary’s House for women and a food barn that houses supplies for the food ministry.
Drew Jackson is the acting director of the new thrift store and knows from personal experience how Jericho Road Ministry helps people in dire circumstances.
“I myself graduated from the ministry’s program and now I am working here at the County Line Road store,” Jackson said. “The ministry can help turn people’s lives around,” he said.
The thrift stores receive new items everyday so you will always find something new each time you visit. Contributions help provide meals, shelter and other essential care. It also helps keep vital programs and services going.
“Donations are always appreciated whether it be monetary or items for the our stores,” Jackson said. “Each donation goes toward making a lasting difference for the homeless,” he said.
Volunteers play a vital role in the transforming work of Jericho Road Ministries. To learn more or to apply, call 352.799.2912 or visit jericho-road.net. A valid Florida ID is required as well as home church information to complete a pastoral reference.
“We have many opportunities for members of the community to contribute their time,” said Pastor Chamberlin. “We are always looking for godly, dependable volunteers to help out in the various thrift store locations, as well as at the shelters.”
About 62 volunteers from the community currently help out in the thrift stores and at the food bank. The ministry is also providing opportunities for those completing community service. It includes high school and college students who can volunteer and receive credit at their schools.
“Jericho is grateful to the community in supporting us as we support those who are looking to change their lives,” Pastor Chamberlin said.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Jericho Road Ministries at 352-799-2912.
IF YOU GO
The new Jericho Road Ministries thrift store is located at 15000 County Line Road , Spring Hill, FL 34610
Monday – Friday
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Jericho road Ministries thrift stores are also located on Wiscon Road near Brooksville, Cortez Blvd. in Ridge Manor West and on Commercial Way in Spring Hill. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The stores run regular sales and information and coupons are available online at jericho-road.net
Other reports in our series on homelessness: