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- 2012 - October - 18th -

7 Downtown sites considered for homeless day center

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

At least seven Downtown area locations are in consideration for a daytime resource center for the homeless, City documents show.

The locations are:

• The Armory, 851 N. Market St.

• Genovar’s Hall, 644 W. Ashley St.

• A vacant church building at 639 Talleyrand Ave.

• A site behind the City Rescue Mission, 234 W. State St.

• City-owned property behind the Salvation Army, 905 W. Forsyth St.

• Three former public building offices at 928 N. Liberty St.

• Miller Machinery, 601 E. Church St.

“The City of Jacksonville remains in the due diligence phase and is assessing multiple sites for their suitability for the resource center for the homeless,” said David DeCamp, communications director for Mayor Alvin Brown, in an emailed statement.

“As you know, consensus has emerged that some type of center will benefit the community by providing opportunities to aid the homeless population. It’s important to note that no decision for a recommended site has been made,” he said.

Brown has been talking publicly about the center. He told Women Business Owners of North Florida in August that a daytime center for homeless people was in the works, but didn’t elaborate. “We’re going to have a day center up and running by the end of the year,” he said.

DeCamp said Wednesday the priority was “to have a cost-effective project that minimizes expense for the taxpayer and involves private-sector support.”

DeCamp said the City continues to work with nonprofits to assess locations and is organizing meetings with residents and business owners to discuss concerns.

News reports Wednesday that the Armory was a targeted location drew swift response from some residents of Historic Springfield who were vocal in opposing the day center in their neighborhood.

DeCamp provided an unrelated project assessment for the Armory that shows it would cost $9.6 million to be restored and adapted for use by the Supervisor of Elections Office.

“The renovation costs are a significant factor in our decision-making process,” DeCamp said.

A budget overview shows capital, build-out and operational funding “to be determined” and indicates staff salaries of $36,000. Staffing would consist of a program manager and a part-time program assistant.

According to City documents, Brown has announced his support to identify locations to provide “a safe, hospitable, accessible day resource center for the homeless population” Downtown.

He has been working with nonprofits and other organizations, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition, City Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, Mental Health Resource Center, Salvation Army, Sulzbacher Center, Trinity Rescue Mission and others.

In an overview, the City said it plans to commit one staff person to the effort of launching the “Drop-In Day Center.” Other expenses and needs will be covered through public-private partnerships and charitable donations, it said.

The center would provide showers, food, laundry facilities, computer and phone access as well as a front-door entrance to other services provided to the homeless by community agencies.

“The program will provide access programs and services to help the homeless regain stability, employment and personal shelter,” it said.

The overview listed two measurements to gauge success:

• The change in misdemeanor arrests of homeless people in Jacksonville’s Downtown Zone 1 that occur on the days the center is open.

• The percentage of homeless people who use the center “being connected to needed services that will reconnect them to the community.”

The overview defines the center’s target population as individuals who are living on the streets “and in places not meant for human habitation” in Downtown Jacksonville.

According to the overview, the best estimate of the size of the population comes from the registry week of 100 Homes Jacksonville, an effort to identify the 100 most medically vulnerable homeless people Downtown.

It said for three consecutive days in November, about 75 volunteers canvassed Downtown between 4-6 a.m. and found more than 400 people. A third of those were found to be vulnerable with a high mortality risk.

The overview said the center, to be effective, would need to be in or around the urban core because the target population has little or no access to public or private transportation.

“Appropriate locations that meet the criteria will be identified, vetted and one will be secured,” it said. “The center will provide an effective, constructive alternative magnet for homeless people to gravitate and congregate.”

The City said “strategic partnerships” will allow them to “empower the homeless to reinvent themselves and build a new beginning.” It said federal grants assist organizations that streamline services and to ignore the trend would reduce or cease services and lead to funding shortages.

According to the City, the day center should provide space, equipment and furnishings to accommodate:

• Reception area seating and laminated photo-membership ID processing

• Universal intake to access to full array of homeless services

• Office space ensuring security and confidentiality

• Restrooms, showers and storage lockers

• Clothing closet, washers and dryers

• Mailboxes and mailing address

• Telephones and community voice mail

• Computers with Internet connections

• Exercise and recreation area

• Outside recreation patio area

• Access to medical clinic

• Security

• Rotating service providers linking to other available services

The overview said Brown announced in April that he supported a 12-month pilot project to provide a day center for Jacksonville’s homeless. The City would commit one staff person to launch the project and other expenses and needs would be covered through public-private partnerships and charitable donations.

For the pilot program, the center would be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. three days a week.

Funding would be pursued through private donations, as well as local, state and federal grants. A budget wouldn’t be determined until a location was identified.

“We expect the Day Resource Center to achieve sustainability and become self-sufficient,” said the overview.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

356-2466

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