A new mobile health bus will be making its rounds around the city with a goal of helping Jacksonville’s homeless population.
The bus will run out of the Urban Rest Stop located at Sulzbacher’s Downtown location.
“Every single life has value,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Monday. “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity, and we all ought to be trying to help each other. And that’s what this additional project speaks to.”
Healthmobile stems from the city’s Downtown Homelessness Task Force, which looked at the issues facing the homeless community.
The bus will travel around areas of Jacksonville’s urban core to provide medical care and HIV testing with hired physicians on board.
The bus has three separate rooms to take care of patients.
“We were doing street medicine and street psychiatry out of a little minivan with 100,000 miles on it, so this is definitely an upgrade,” Sulzbacher CEO Cindy Funkhouser said.
It will begin completing routes on March 23.
“We’ll have holes in the schedule, and we’ll be able to go outside of the urban core,” Funkhouser said. “We’re looking at Riverside, we’re looking at Springfield, we’re looking at some other areas. We’ve had
homeless outreach for about 20 years, so they know where the pockets of homeless people are.”
Funkhouser said none of the homeless population at the Urban Rest Stop - where the announcement for the bus was made - or anywhere in the urban core knew that the Healthmobile bus was coming. But she doesn’t believe that will keep people from knowing about it.
“The homeless grapevine in Jacksonville, Florida is probably the fastest mechanism to communicate,” Funkhouser said.
The money to acquire and manufacture the bus came from a donation from the United Arab Emirates, and Mayor Curry said he wants to make sure it’s maintained properly.
“It’s not going away,” Curry said. “As long as I’m in office, and I have this City Council, we’re going to keep this running.”
Members of the Downtown Homelessness Task Force say the bus is just one improvement on a list of goals.
“We want to actually do a behavioral ban that will be going out and bringing services out into the community,” said Debbie O’Neal, who also works as VP of Community Support Services with the Mental Health Resource Center. “Affordable housing is one of the biggest issues. No matter what we do to try to improve the plight of individuals that are homeless on the street. We’re not going to be able to solve the homelessness problem until we create more affordable housing.”
Locations the bus will travel to Downtown include the Clara White Mission, the Salvation Army, Trinity Rescue Mission, City Rescue Mission, Changing Homelessness, Goodwill Industries, Sulzbacher Village, and Pearl Plaza.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.