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43 Of Jacksonville’s Homeless Get Shelter

Lindsey Kilbride

About 43 homeless Jacksonville residents are getting new apartments this month, thanks to a local nonprofit. Some of those people moved in Tuesday.

Gary Wagner was homeless yesterday. But now he lives on the Westside in a one-bedroom apartment. As he shows off his new home, he steps over boxes of books, the majority of his belongings.

“Well as you see I have made myself right at home here emptying my boxes,” Wagner said. “I love my kitchen area, I mean this is spacious.”

His apartment is one of 43. The complex is called Village on Wiley, developed by the nonprofit Ability Housing. The low-rent community is designed to support people who are chronically homeless and use a lot of the city’s crisis services.

Outside of Wagner’s front door, workers are still building a fence around the complex. Wagner says he used to work for a public radio station in New York

“I was an arts producer,” he said. “So I did things like radio dramas and music specials.”

And he says becoming homeless was never something he thought was possible.

“I worked for benefits for the homeless,” Wagner said. “I was involved in fundraising.”

He says he moved to Daytona to take care of his mother a few years ago, and that’s when things changed.

“In a very short period of time following the death of my mother and the loss of the house I suddenly became this homeless person,” he said.

Wagner says he moved to Jacksonville because he heard the city had resources. He started bouncing between shelters in 2012.

Now Wagner has his own bed, and a key to his own front door. He says the stability gives him the opportunity to contribute to society again.

“Now the sense of wanting to give back is now a very, very strong motivation for whatever will be the next step for me,” he said.

Wagner has 11 new neighbors who used to be homeless too, and more are moving in this month.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.