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Review for Mission in Citrus Inc, Crystal River, FL, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

The homeless in rural Florida have proven what I believed in all along. That they could 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 were five shelters; two for homeless Veterans.

We recently closed one shelter because the Mission in Citrus eliminated 75% of the homeless Veteran problem in Citrus County, and due to the slowdown in our present economy. Our shelters are geared to operate at the lowest cost, and to be moved or closed when necessary. They are located close to jobs and resources.

Close to 450 former residents still keep in contact with me through email, Facebook, or phone. I am so very proud of them, as their accomplishments are no less than a miracle. We are not faith based but live by faith. No one is forced to go to church, but over 90% attend services each week at the church of their choice. Our saying is that God runs things around here. And He does. Miracle after miracle has occurred during the past four years. A Good Samaritan to all in need. We are struggling now, as we have been denied funding because we do not have anyone who can write grants properly. But we are working on that. And all of the praise, glory, and honor, we give to God for all His blessings.

Over two thousand people were helped back into society since 2009, 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. Our foundation is based on that no one should lose their freedoms that so many Veterans have died for, unless they are a criminal. Since February 1st 2013, over 42 people moved into homes with jobs. That may seem small to many, but it was over 50% of our residents living at our shelters. Fourteen were children. Five were entire families.

Our 1st Veteran's shelter was opened on less than $5000, and a lot of faith. It is now approaching its fourth year of operation. Veterans have 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. Our 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 provided meals, shelter, laundry, showers, and much more. It served many Veterans living in the woods and swamps, and those traveling around the country. The model was highly successful, before it’s closing due to lack of funds... Our 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 “I “became homeless. My research and personal experience 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 criminalized homelessness. Most of the 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 our Hire the Homeless program has been highly successful. The residents also help operate the shelter by paying for their upkeep with donations, 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 nonprofits. No one is allowed to sit around. All earn their keep.
We have overcome many obstacles in the past four years, from 60 tents to 5 shelters. We had major fights with everyone from the Fire Marshal, Sheriff’s Dept., and many other agencies, including County Commissioners. We now have positive working relationships with all of them. We have earned their respect. We still have a long way to go.

Grant writing is hard because there is little time after helping so many people each day. We beg for 80% of our operating funds using collections sites, such as Wal-Mart, and County flea markets. Over 1000 people were helped last year with $120,000. The Mission in Citrus continues to fight for homeless rights. Our 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. It is cheaper to go to Harvard.

Our residents age from four days old to 72 years old. The new face of homelessness has become many homeless women and children. We are expecting two new babies in the next month. The days of the old homeless stereotype are over. The present economy is taking no prisoners.
Our long term goals are to share our system with others, and to increase our homeless Veterans beds by 150 by buying a motel. We 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 I turned 51 last year, over 200 former residents visited, Face booked, 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. We 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 our history, we have never failed to feed and help anyone who has entered our gates. We 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

Our Mission is to help all in need to the best of our ability. We follow the parable of the Good Samaritan, as there are no requirements for our services. We 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 we have not been able to help. Veterans have become our priority as we have seen their suffering the most.

To all the past and present residents of the Mission in Citrus. I am so very proud of you. You made it work. God gave us the direction and help through many. God bless you all and much Love to all of you

James M Sleighter – Founder and Executive Director of the Mission in Citrus

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