City Says Hotels For Homeless Program A Success, But Jax Encampment Remains

Feb 16, 2021

The city of Jacksonville has successfully relocated 48 people from a Downtown tent city into temporary shelters following the announcement of a major rehousing initiative, but a Downtown encampment remains.

A spokesperson for the city told WJCT News Tuesday more people will be offered temporary housing in area hotels as funding becomes available. Some people staying at the encampment  expressed frustration over what they perceived as insufficient action from the city. 

“We were told not too long ago that the funding that Sulzbacher had is now out, there’s no more funding,” said community organizer Dennis Henry, who said he left his job to support residents of the tent city. He said he’s counted 350 people living at or passing through the encampment in his four days at the site. 

Henry was referencing “Pathway to Home,” an effort by the city of Jacksonville, along with the Sulzbacher Center and other partners, to move 53 homeless individuals into hotel rooms and eventually into permanent housing. 

“The original intent of this program was to provide a safe and dignified place for unsheltered homeless on Jefferson and Union a place to sleep while we work on long term solutions for permanent housing,” Dawn Lockhart, director of Strategic Partnerships for the City of Jacksonville, said in an email. “Forty-eight of the 53 who were staying in this camp the day we held our press conference are now in hotels and part of this program. For those individuals, this is a success, but the reality is we have limited resources.” 

Lockhard said she’s hopeful more funding will be received to “advance our innovative solutions to homelessness in Jacksonville.” 

As of Tuesday morning, at least four dozen tents occupied a full city block on Jefferson Street between Beaver and Union Streets. Residents of the tent city washed their hair in buckets on the sidewalk, scoped out breakfast at informal shared kitchens, or sorted through piles of donated goods. 

Organizer Henry, 30, said residents needed tents, camping stoves, clothes and food, but the most severe need was mental and physical health care. “They need to start sending mental health help out here. They need mental help. They need medical help. There’s no medical help coming out here. Most of these people be in tents, and they’re sick, and we don’t know what’s wrong with them.”

City spokesperson Marjorie Dennis urged those living at the encampment to make use of the city’s Urban Rest Stop, which provides the unsheltered homeless with restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, medical help and intake into further care. 

“When more housing resources become available, individuals will need to enter through that intake process to gain access,” Dennis said.

The Urban Rest Stop is located inside the Sulzbacher Center at 611 E. Adams Street, about a 1.5 mile walk from the tent city, and is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.