Homeless shelter to once again hold event downtown simulating homelessness

By Jim McCabe on November 3 at 8:01am

The executive director of Jacksonville’s homeless center is hoping for some bad weather next weekend, but for a good reason.

Vanessa Tyus isn’t randomly hoping for cold weather or rain. She wants people in the city to see what it’s really like to live out on the streets during the fourth annual Shelter from the Storm event on the downtown square.

The head of the New Directions Warming and Cooling Center says people can come out and build shelters out of cardboard boxes from Saturday at 2:30 p-m to Sunday at 7:30 a-m.

“So many times, we take our houses for granted, and just to walk in the shoes that night of a homeless person- we’re not able to go downtown and use the bathrooms, we’re asking them to walk down to Circle K to use the bathrooms,” says Tyus, for example. “Soup will be served in cans and paper products through that night also.”

With November being Homeless Awareness Month across the country, Tyus says this is the time of the year more people seeking shelter start to show up at locations like the one she operates.

“We just want to promote the awareness of homelessness,” she says. “A lot of times, we think that homeless people [are homeless] because they can’t pay their bills or whatever, but there’s different types of homelessness through tragedies that happen.”

Tyus encourages those who are building shelters to be creative, with prizes going to the top three.

The “hobo soup,” as it’s being called, is provided by the Salvation Army. There will be a candlelight vigil and entertainment from the Jacksonville High School and Southeast High School marching bands.

For more information, call Tyus at 473-0434.

New Directions is open 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week. Those that wish to stay there must first check in at the Jacksonville Police Station for a background check.

Pictured above: an example of a homeless shelter created during last year’s event.