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Church Homeless Help Shutting Down

For over a decade, the homeless ministry here at First Presbyterian Church in Ft. Walton Beach has has been looking after the area's less fortunate. Now they say that program is coming to an end.

The church has been a care center helping the homeless for years, but will end the ministry at the end of June..

Church member Barbara Rhinehardt said  "it has been a blessing to us to know that God was working through us to help others."

The church would serve meals to the homeless once a week, and collect clothes and food to hand out through programs like the "Clothes Closet." It also served as one of the area's cold weather shelters. Yvonne Franklin was one of the coordinators of the ministry.

Said Franklin, "I've been involved with it for the past 12 years, and it's hard on me because I love all the homeless people. They're all my extended family as I tell them, and they're all great friends to me. And it's changed my life drastically to work with these people."

The church says it's looking into creating programs in the future to help again, but many members say, for now, the church is being guided in another direction.

Barbara Rhinehardt said "We feel like there's another way that we can serve. We do want to serve, but we..perhaps God's leading us into another direction. And we want to keep our hearts and our eyes open to feel that guidance."

Franklin says she'd like to see a more lasting solution created by the city and the county, saying, "I would like to find a permanent shelter, because then we could have the people finding jobs, finding the help that they need."

But, she says, the chuch, and the community, have always been, and are still, willing to pitch in and help.

"I would like to say thank you to the community for all the help that you've given to the First Presbyterian Church and that it was greatly appreciated by the church people and by the homeless people."

Members of First Presbyterian Church say they hope other churches can help fill the void they leave behind.