By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - A new, legal home for the homeless is one tent peg closer to opening.
Camp Haven, a nonprofit organization with a mission to create a temporary, soft-shelter home for some homeless adults in Indian River County, recently announced a location for the tent camp.
The address is in the South Dixie Commercial Park at 500 Second St., Vero Beach. It is currently owned by Cemex Construction Materials and the lease is expected to begin Sept. 1, said Pat Geyer, project manager.
The negotiations include a one-year lease commitment with a two-year extension option, she said.
The 7-acre property is heavily wooded, in a commercial area and will be nowhere close to any residential homes.
"We had an ideal and this is it. It's amazing," Ms. Geyer said.
The lot is slightly larger than the organization dared to hope for, and the many trees will allow for a lot of shade and help keep the tent camp secluded, she said.
Fundraising is still underway to pay for the land, architect, surveys, site plans, engineer review and other elements of the start up. Camp Haven does not plan to use any taxpayer funds to pay for the tent camp.
Ms. Geyer said the area is currently zoned general industrial. The next step in the process, which could take between six and eight months, is getting approval from the county commission for the project location. One of the reasons it is expected to take a while to accomplish this phase is because the zoning Camp Haven is seeking doesn't currently exist in the county.
"They are going to have to create a new zoning category for this site and this use," Ms. Geyer said.
Overall, the project is about five months behind the ideal schedule, but this agreement with Cemex is a huge positive step forward, Ms. Geyer said.
The Camp Haven program will be a six-month, temporary shelter for single adults, or adult couples with no dependent children. The tent camp will be for Indian River County residents only and enrollment in the program requires an intensive questionnaire, background check and more, Ms. Geyer said.
The Camp Haven idea was spearheaded by Sonya Morrison, executive director of The Source, a Christian outreach ministry to the homeless and near-homeless, that provides food, bathrooms, counseling and other forms of assistance. She is also the CEO of Camp Haven, which is a separate nonprofit organization.
Ms. Morrison has announced she will be stepping down from her two positions and will be moving out of state. Dennis Bartholomew, former executive director of the Sun Up Center, will be stepping in as interim executive director of The Source and interim CEO of Camp Haven.
For more information about Camp Haven, contact Ms. Geyer at (772) 205-1995 or visit www.buildcamphaven.org.