The fastest way to remove a person from the ranks of the homeless is to find a home for them, according to the “100 Homes Jacksonville” initiative.
The initiative officially began last week when about 60 community volunteers gathered at 4 a.m. Downtown for three days to survey homeless people, determine their vulnerability and begin to develop a plan to move them off the streets.
The local program is part of a national effort led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to identify medically at-risk homeless former military personnel, find them a place to live and provide counseling and employment services.
The federal government has committed resources to find permanent, sustainable shelter for 50 veterans.
Local social service organizations have set a goal to provide the same for 50 nonveterans.
The results of the local survey were released Friday at a “community conversation” meeting at AT&T Tower 301.
Dawn Gilman, executive director of the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Jacksonville, has participated in many surveys of the homeless population.
She said she was surprised about the number of people who are sleeping on the streets Downtown instead of in a shelter.
She also was surprised at how the homeless population has changed over the past few years.
“We didn’t find as many people with serious mental illness or substance abuse as we expected. You can really see the economic downturn on the streets. For so many people, if they had a job, they would be housed,” she said.
Of the 419 people volunteers met during the three mornings, 358 agreed to participate in the survey.
Eighty-four percent were men, the average age was 46 and the average time those surveyed have been homeless was three years.
By beginning the census so early in the morning, the volunteers were able to encounter people before they woke up and headed for a shelter to have breakfast or to a labor pool to seek employment for the day, said Shannon Nazworth, executive director of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida.
“The survey hasn’t been done this way before. Surveying at 4 a.m. allowed us to meet people where they were sleeping,” she said.
The VA has identified housing for 50 veterans, but in order to house a like number of nonveterans, Nazworth said the effort needs help from the community. So far, 12 apartments have been committed.
“Our resources are maxed out. The nonprofits alone can’t fund enough housing for 50 people,” she said.
Nazworth said the next step is coordinating resources with the people who need them. The Jacksonville effort is seeking businesses, groups and individuals who’d like to donate anything from a year’s lease for an apartment to cash donations to purchase basic household needs.
For more information, visit www.100homesjax.com.
Chronically homeless 89%
Military veterans 19%
Youth under 25 2%
Seniors over 60 16%
Seniors over 62 8%
3X ER or hospital past 12 months 16%
3X ER or hospital past 3 months 22%
Heart disease 24%
Liver disease 16%
Hepatitis C 20%
Mental health condition 58%
Substance abuse 62%
Dual diagnosed 43%
Source: 100 Homes Jacksonville