Jacksonville is opening a center that will provide services during the day to homeless people.
Homeless advocates and city officials gathered Thursday at the nonprofit Sulzbacher Center downtown for the grand opening of the Urban Rest Stop, a collaborative initiative between homeless providers and the mayor’s office, where homeless people get everything from meals and mail to medical care and showers.
The Urban Rest stop will give unsheltered homeless people a place to go for the first time since the city's day resource center closed more than 3 years ago.
The Urban Stop will support some 400 homeless people downtime that are either waiting for shelter beds to open or choose to sleep in the street. Sulzbacher President Cindy Funkhouser said they haven't had the access to those resources.
"They need a place where they can be and feel welcome and connect to services,” she said.
Funkhouser said the resource center is one of the intiatives that came out of a homelessness task force Curry created two years ago. The Downtown Homelessness Task Force looked for ways to increase services for homeless people.
“He got the experts in the room. He got the people that are on the ground. We know what’s happening,” she said. “And he asked us what we thought need to happen, so I was really appreciative of that.”
She said her organization has wanted to establish the resource center for years, but Mayor Lenny Curry stepped up.
“Historically there have been attempts, but they’ve not been thoughtful, they’ve not been funded, they’ve not been sustainable, and we wanted something that’s funded and sustainable and that would truly have an impact on those that are homeless,” said Curry.
The city gave Sulzbacher and the Mental Health Resource Center $70,000 annual funding to run the Rest Stop, in addition to an initial $120,000 for renovations and hiring an off-duty police officer.
The Urban Rest Stop is located inside Sulzbacher, the city’s largest provider of homeless services. It will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Rest Stop is operated by Sulzbacher and Mental Health Resource Center.