DESTIN, Fla. – It’s always gratifying to see a previously homeless person no longer living on the streets, says Jackie Pilcher, a Realtor® with ResortQuest Real Estate in Destin.
“I recently saw one of the veterans I’ve been working with through the Okaloosa Walton Homeless Continuum of Care,” says Pilcher. “He is in his late 60s, and he was riding his bike while I was on my way to a showing. He told me he was off the streets. We have a lot of older veterans in our area and it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.”
The Continuum of Care is a non-profit that offers housing, rental assistance, and shelters for the very low-income homeless.
Pilcher has been making a difference to the lives of homeless people in her community since 2008, when she started volunteering at a local church’s meal program.
“That evolved into helping people, specifically homeless veterans, with Social Security, food stamps, anything they might need to use a computer to apply for,” she says. But, the real “a-ha moment” happened when the executive director of the Okaloosa Walton Homeless Continuum of Care spoke to a woman’s group.
Pilcher recalls, “She spoke about the group of homeless women who live in the woods surrounded by tin cans hung by strings to warn them of danger. It prompted me to help them find and open a place where these women can shower and receive care.”
Opportunity Place, a short-term shelter for homeless women, men and families, has now been around for about 10 years.
“It allows people to get off the streets,” she says. “They’re usually exhausted, so they need a few days to sleep, then we get them focused on a job, getting their GED and setting them up for later success.”
While Pilcher is quick to note she isn’t a social worker, she does volunteer to help fill out paperwork.
“Many of them don’t know how to use the computer, so I help them apply for housing, benefits and more,” she says.
Her father served as a role model for giving back to the community and inspired Pilcher to do the same.
She recalls, “My father was always that way. His parents were missionaries in Cuba, so I was inspired by the work his side of the family did. For me, I get so much out of it. I feel like I’m doing something that matters.”
Realtors are the backbone of our communities, says Pilcher.
“There is a big need to help the homeless and get them off the street. I encourage everyone to volunteer. There are so many ways to help.”