SERVING THE HOMELESS
Hillsborough County is no longer in first place and that’s a good thing. Until last year, our county led Florida in the number of homeless. By 2014, we dropped to 5th place. But, the Tampa-St. Petersburg Metro area still has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation. The homeless in the Town ‘n Country area may not always be visible but they live nearby. The Kaye Prox Food Bank is one of the organizations that helps make the lives of these men and women a little easier.
For many years John Prox, husband of Kaye Prox, the late founder of the food bank, devoted much of his time each week helping organize the food bank, keeping its shelves filled, but especially working to provide timely help to the homeless. His efforts affected many who came to the food bank. One heart-warming example is the result of his idea to provide holiday cards to send to family members. With John’s encouragement, one homeless man finally mailed a Christmas card to his family, initiating the first contact in several years.
In 2010, John was awarded the Good Samaritan Award by Lutheran Services for his work with the Kaye Prox Food Bank, and especially the homeless.
This spring when John decided to relax a little and spend less time at the food bank, Sharon Jones, a long-time volunteer, stepped up to coordinate the food bank’s services for the homeless. In a recent interview, she talked about her experiences helping the homeless at the Kaye Prox Food Bank. Here are excerpts from the interview.
To read the full interview with Sharon, click here.
How many homeless individuals does the food bank serve?
What are the demographics of our homeless?
The ages run from 18 to 64 and we see more males than females. Some are very well educated but have trouble finding jobs because of their ages. Others have medical issues that also make employment difficult. There are quite a few homeless that come in with relatives and, at times, entire families with a couple of kids in tow.
What are their living conditions?
Living accommodations vary. Quite a few live in “camps” and tend to look after one another. Some are lucky and have friends who will take them in for a while. Others are not so lucky and sleep wherever they can find a dry and safe spot. There are a few that sleep in vehicles. Very few stay in weekly motels, as most do not have the resources.
In what way(s) can food bank supporters help the homeless we serve?
Let me first say, "there but for the grace of God, go I." Put yourself in their position. Many, for no reason in their control, find themselves homeless. Suddenly, they are without safe living conditions--no food, no bed, no running water.... They are lacking the simplest of things - toilet paper, insect repellent, dry socks/shoes, sunblock, water, soap, and women’s hygiene products. Some don't even have a can opener! These items, and things like t-shirts and backpacks, are really needed. They don't have to be new, just in usable condition.
COUNTDOWN TO SUCCESS
This year we were able to provide 40% more backpacks and supplies than in past years. Thanks to everyone who supported our annual effort to help ensure that the students in our families have what they need to start school ready to learn.