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Chronic Veteran Homelessness Down 80 Percent In Jacksonville, New Count Concludes

Cyd Hoskinson
A 33-year-old homeless Army veteran, Sheena Harris sleeping on the streets of downtown Jacksonville last year.

Veteran homelessness has dropped 80 percent in Jacksonville since 2009, that’s according to a new report from nonprofit Changing Homelessness.

The group just missed its goal of getting veteran homelessness down to so-called “functional zero” by this year.

Functional zero is when the amount of homeless people on the street is outnumbered by space to house them. Jacksonville isn’t quite there yet.

Still, Changing Homelessness CEO Dawn Gilman said it’s made some serious progress in the last eight years. She credits the success to the use of new methods like housing first and rapid rehousing.

“It’s exactly what it says. Our goal is once we identify a veteran that’s homeless, to get him or her engaged in our program and leased up and moved in, in 30 days or less,” she said.

Between shelters, transitional housing and the streets, Gilman said her group counted close to 1,900 homeless people in Jacksonville this year, that includes 125 homeless veterans — 11 of whom were chronically-homeless, meaning they were living primarily on the streets.

Gilman said her group works with veterans to help them take advantage of the military benefits they’re owed. And she says Changing Homelessness is getting an extra boost.

“We’re also fortunate that we have another grant from the VA called supportive services for veteran families, which is also specifically designed to target homeless veterans and get them housed,” she said.

The grant focuses on getting veterans into housing first before addressing the problems that got them there; things like substance abuse and mental health issues. Once considered controversial, Gilman said rapid rehousing and housing first has emerged as the most effective way to help the homeless.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.