Residents of a Downtown Jacksonville homeless encampment continue to worry about the future of their makeshift community after a report that the city may ask them to move.
News partner News4Jax received a tip that the police would evict the homeless by Monday, but as of Tuesday morning, no action had been taken.
Speaking to WJCT News on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office denied any plans to evacuate the tent city.
One resident told WJCT News that after rumors that a removal was coming, there had been no other communication from the city. Residents still worry they could be asked to leave at any moment.
“Where would we go?” the resident asked, laughing. “Over there?” He gestured to a patch of grass across the street.
Homeless resident Priscilla Gates, 32, doesn’t know where she would go if the camp was broken up. “It’s not like we’re causing chaos. It’s not like we’re fighting or arguing everyday. People are actually out here getting along with each other. It’s like a little tent village family.”
Troy Williams sleeps at a local homeless shelter but spends time at the camp during the day. He said he’d seen the need for services grow during the coronavirus pandemic. He said the camp was likely larger because shelters were operating at half capacity to preserve social distancing, but also because for many, the experience of staying in the shelter was destabilizing and unpleasant.
If the city tried to evict the camp, “there would be a lot of arrests,” he speculated.
Located at West Beaver Street and North Jefferson Street, the tent city has become a symbol of housing woes for Jacksonville’s low-income population. But it’s also a place for those experiencing homelessness to receive support.
Homeless support services and good samaritans stop by with warm clothes, food and toiletries. Residents themselves pass information amongst one another on where to find services.
Following a request from WJCT News for more information, Mayor Lenny Curry’s office announced a Wednesday news conference to reveal what’s described as “a comprehensive plan to provide shelter, food and long-term options for the city’s homeless.”
WJCT News will be covering the mayor’s announcement.
Contact Sydney Boles at email@example.com or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.