In Your Own Words 

With D. Michelle Maule, executive marketing administrator and community liaison for the Clara White Mission

 

“Can you provide an overview of your organization’s mission, the size and demographics of the homeless population you serve, the types of food items and resources you typically provide, and your collaborative efforts with local organizations to support homeless individuals beyond food provision?”

 

The Clara White Mission is the oldest Black nonprofit in the state of Florida. It was founded 120 years ago by humanitarian and philanthropist Eartha M.M. White. During Eartha’s lifetime, the Mission gained a reputation as a soup kitchen for the homeless and veterans in need. As the organization has grown and evolved, the mission has expanded to include programs that offer food, housing and training services. Those services are provided through four programs: The Clara White Mission Veterans Center, The Clara White Mission Feeding Program, The Eartha M.M. White Historical Museum and Eartha’s Farm and Market (formerly White Harvest Farms).

Our feeding program provides hot meals to the homeless, we have a food pantry for people in need of assistance, and we have a 10.5-acre farm that grows organic fruits and vegetables to serve food desert communities.

 

The veteran’s center offers 24-hour facilities for homeless veterans. We can house up to 23 men in our dormitory. There’s an in-house laundry facility, rec room, computer lab and staff on site who prepare three meals each day for residents. Residents are provided caseworkers to help them prepare for independent living. Our staff provides life skills programs and substance abuse resources, garden therapy and several resources that help expose the men to positive activities that will help them lead productive lives and make choices that support sobriety, mental wellness and independence. 

 

The museum is a collection of furnishings and artifacts that belonged to our founder Eartha M.M. White. Museum director Adonnica Toler curated the museum in such a way that people can learn about the life of Eartha M.M. White, not just her work. Visitors can tour the museum for $5 and learn about historic LaVilla and the influence Eartha had on Jacksonville in the early 1920s through the 1970s, which includes the Harlem Renaissance Era and the Great Depression. Much of her life was spent in service to others, but she was well known among society’s who’s who in Jacksonville, involved in the civil rights movement and the suffragist movement among other historic events that shaped Jacksonville. 

 

Eartha’s Farm and Market (formerly White Harvest Farms) is a catalyst for economic revitalization in Historic Moncrief Springs. This program was made possible with the help of local city officials, and dedicated donors who wanted to support the vision we had to support local business owners and small growers. Every Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. visitors can eat, shop and explore the farm. We offer more than 20 + vendors, workshops on gardening, farm tours, and volunteer opportunities for the entire family.

 

Through a partnership with Changing Homelessness, we can document the homeless/unhoused population. According to a PIT count report published in 2023, we know 73% of the homeless population who are unsheltered are male. We also know that 30% of unsheltered homeless people are aged 45-54. These are the demographics with the highest number of people identifying as homeless/unsheltered. While the Clara White Mission offers its meal programs to the general population of homeless/unhoused people (we don’t turn anyone away), our target clients are homeless veterans. In 2023, 102 people identified as homeless veterans. These numbers are significantly lower than a decade ago when Changing Homelessness reported 324 people identified as homeless veterans in 2013. It is important to note that we are part of a robust community that offers Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF). These programs are dedicated to funding and partnering together to have a positive impact on the system of care model.

 

The Clara White Mission offers hot meals that range from breakfast items to various stews or what we can refer to as one-pot meals. If individuals are veterans, they can take advantage of our Day Center which is a resource for daytime services only. Those services include showers, restrooms, computer access, laundry service and occasional snacks/coffee. We have allowed clients to use the Mission as their mailing address so they can continue to receive correspondence from family or take care of business affairs. 

 

Our most recent collaboration was with the Sierra Club. Bill Snow, a member of their board, reached out to us after touring our facilities to offer our veterans recreational experiences with their Military Outdoors group. This provides recreation for the residents and community with other veterans in a positive setting. We have also partnered with We Can Be Heroes, a nonprofit organization that has supported several events we host to fundraise for the veterans program, by offering meals and personal care items for the residents and participating in our Adopt-A-Veteran Christmas party every year.

About FOLIO