By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- This year for Christmas, Lalita Janke asked for a home for local homeless, and it looks like her wish may be coming true.
On Jan. 6, Camp Haven, the nonprofit group renovating the old Citrus Motel on U.S. 1 in Vero Beach into temporary housing for homeless, is expecting to receive a certificate of occupancy for their buildings, and hope to have a couple people enrolled in their program and living on campus before the month is out.
"I'm so excited because we are on our last sprint to the finish, and this is the time when the most things need to get done," said Mrs. Janke, chairwoman of the nonprofit's board of directors.
"We have an urgency about this program and we've started to do in-depth interviews with potential residents," she said.
Word about the facility is spreading to the surrounding areas as well.
"I get at least two or three calls a day from people all over, from Broward to Palm Beach, asking about openings at Camp Haven. I have to tell them that ours is an Indian River-based program, but people are still calling," Mrs. Janke said.
By implementing a thoughtful intake procedure and a strict adherence to guidelines, the Camp Haven program will provide its residents with educational opportunities, counseling and encouragement as they move from homelessness to hopefulness and eventually become active, engaged and contributing members of the community, a statement on the nonprofit's website said.
"Residents have to be clean and sober before they come to us," Mrs. Janke said.
Even during the holidays, work was being done on the rooms, including renovations for electricity.
"The rooms are in the process of renovation, every wall will be new and be up to 2013 code," Mrs. Janke said.
Originally, the campus concept was to have one person to a room, but that has been modified to two or three people to a room, to foster community concepts and build relationships and accountability, she said.
The length of stay will vary on the individual's needs, Mrs. Janke said.
"Everyone heals at their own pace," she said.
"Many times the homeless have given up on themselves. The community makes them feel invisible, and they want to be invisible because they are ashamed of some of the choices they have made," Mrs. Janke said.
For the ones that want to get out of a cycle of bad choices and homelessness, Camp Haven will provide a safe place to sleep and take care of personal hygiene needs, as well as have classes and search for employment, she said.
Mrs. Janke said the support of individual donors and contributions by organizations such as the Indian River Community Foundation have allowed the Camp Haven vision to progress as far as it has, and it is what will help it continue to grow and bear fruit.
The nonprofit's annual fundraiser will be held on Jan. 23 at the Vero Beach Elks Club on 26th Street in Vero Beach.
The evening of dining, dancing and entertainment will recognize Richard A. "Dick" Stark, who was instrumental in creating the Indian River County task force on the homeless in 1999, resulting in the establishment of the Treasure Coast Homeless Services Council.
Since that time, Mr. Stark has continued to help the homeless community by seeking grants for projects to prevent and end homelessness, amounting to about $22 million in the past 13 years.
Mr. Stark joined Camp Haven's supporters in October 2013 and continues to help the homeless in the community.
The cost per person to the fundraiser is $150, and availability is limited.
For more information about Camp Haven or the fundraiser, call (772) 999-3625 or visit www.camphaven.net.