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Soup’s On!

As the Samaritan Center celebrates 25 years, its annual Soup Bowl fundraiser heightens awareness for the homeless

Local artist and founding member of the Samaritan Center Shotsi LaJoie creates a ceramic soup bowl to be sold at this month’s Soup Bowl fundraiser.

Local artist and founding member of the Samaritan Center Shotsi LaJoie creates a ceramic soup bowl to be sold at this month’s Soup Bowl fundraiser.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like if you and your family didn’t have enough money to pay for the basic necessities of life? No roof over your head. No food. Where could you find a lifeline that would help you become self-sufficient?

That was the question a group of individuals in our community grappled with over 25 years ago as they gathered around an ecumenical table to discuss options and opportunities. Their answer was to establish a nonprofit long-term transitional residential facility for homeless families with dependent children. They named it, appropriately, the Samaritan Center.

Shotsi LaJoie, a licensed mental health therapist and artist, was at that table. “We had a lot of input from churches, synagogues and social service agencies. The data we looked at showed that there were homeless issues in our community that weren’t being addressed, and the subject of families kept coming up. We felt that if we could break the cycle of homelessness we could help change the direction and prepare them to live independently.”

The Samaritan Center, located on five acres on 41st Street, is an intensive, step-based case management program that helps homeless family members develop life skills needed to be successfully reintegrated into mainstream society. They must be residents of Indian River County for at least three months; have a child, children or be expecting one; and be homeless or living in an unsafe environment. 

At least one family member needs to be over 18 years of age, and all must remain drug free. The center can house up to 26 people, including children, or approximately eight to nine families. Residents live in individual dormitory-style family bedrooms, sharing a large kitchen, living and dining areas, and an enclosed play yard. Admission is open to families of all faiths and ethnic groups.