Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Wednesday a new initiative to help the Downtown homeless population.
The initiative is called Pathway to Home. Curry said it is the city’s most comprehensive effort yet to address the problem and involves best-practice strategies when it comes to helping people experiencing homelessness.
“The initial phase will be offering the folks who are living in the encampments dignified and respectful hotel rooms,” said Cindy Funkhouser, president and CEO of the homeless shelter Sulzbacher. “Utilizing an intervention called Rapid Rehousing, we will get people actually into permanent housing. Our goal is within 30 days.”
The outreach to homeless residents is beginning Wednesday, and Funkhouser said the city plans to move people into shelters beginning Friday.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman applauded Mayor Curry for the program, which she said would treat the homeless with dignity. “Mayor, I want to thank you,” Pittman said. “Because guess what, it takes money. It takes resources and commitment, and for us, it’s always been a band aid approach. But this morning you have proven that you will take this and transition this to the next level.”
Those living in the encampments will also be provided with duffel bags to transport their belongings, mental health resources, and other support. Food will be delivered to the hotel rooms weekly.
The city’s hotel program, which predates the new Pathway to Home initiative, is currently serving 227 individuals or families.
Jacksonville Director of Strategic Partnerships Dawn Lockhart said the city’s protocols for homeless services during the coronavirus crisis have earned it national recognition. “Our protocol, which we’re very proud of, has been shared nationally on homeless crisis webinars with conference calls with national associations, and was recognized by the number-one health podcast on Apple, called Epidemic.”
The announcement comes in the wake of reports from WJCT News and others that some members of Jacksonville’s homeless community feared they would be evicted from their Jefferson Street encampment. Jacksonville’s homeless services have faced challenges during the pandemic such as limited volunteer availability, fewer beds in shelters to preserve social distancing.
Those who are interested in donating to those experiencing homelessness can bring miscellaneous items to Trinity Rescue Mission, or sponsor move-in kits, which include things like dishes and silverware, at Changinghomelessness.org.
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.