St. Edmund the Martyr’s Desoto Cares Partnership Expands with Tiny Town

ARCADIA – Good things are happening in Arcadia. Since 1893, St. Edmund the Martyr Episcopal Church, Arcadia has served the community with involvements that not only provide spiritual care but also impact the needs of people living in this rural area of the diocese struggling with limited resources.

In 2013 a number of homeless individuals began loitering in a downtown Arcadia park which caused the community concern. The Rev. Deacon Robert Vaughn read the many social media postings about the need to do something about the homeless issue in the community and called for a community meeting hosted by St. Edmund the Martyr.

These community meetings involving more than sixty participants discussed homelessness in DeSoto County, the lack of services, and possible community responses. After a series of meetings, the group identified the need to facilitate support for the homeless and began responding in November 2013 and continued into the early part of 2014. A core group of volunteers, consisting of community organizations, church members, and other interested individuals, continued exploring options with monthly meetings throughout 2014. Eventually, a plan was developed to provide basic services to chronic on-the-street homeless people, and a volunteer Board of Directors was formed. DeSoto Cares Homeless Services became operational.

Two members of St. Edmund the Martyr’s congregation, Mike Carter and Clifford Pierce, formed a team to go into the homeless encampments located in wooded areas and along the Peace River. They assessed needs and responded with assistance from local charitable organizations and churches. In 2015, DeSoto Cares Homeless Services began the process of attaining a service center for showers, laundry, mailboxes, phone and internet access, and referral services. The service center opened in December with start-up funds from Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of Southwest Florida. DeSoto Cares Homeless Services became incorporated in April 2016, and a 501c3 organization in July of that year.

Most recently, DeSoto Cares Homeless Services acquired 6.5 acres in Arcadia for the development of a transitional housing program. It will be the only housing project for homeless people in DeSoto County. Known as “Tiny Town” because of the use of small houses, the development will be for homeless people as a step toward permanent housing. All zoning, permits, environmental, and engineering plans have been accomplished. The sewer and water infrastructure has been completed and construction will start this summer. Initial funding is in place and the project is on track to receive the grant money needed to complete “Tiny Town”.

St. Edmund the Martyr remains closely connected to DeSoto Cares Homeless Services. Mike Carter serves as volunteer manager of the Service Center, the Rev. Deacon Robert Vaughn collaborates as a program and grants consultant, and his wife Nancy Jo serves as a volunteer caseworker. St. Edmund the Martyr’s outreach ministries in addition to the ECW and Daughters of the King chapters regularly volunteer at the Desoto Cares’ service center. A significant level of private funding for the “Tiny Town” project is connected to St. Edmund the Martyr’s congregation and the church continues to host DeSoto Cares board meetings each month.

Learn more about Desoto Cares Homeless Services.