JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City property at Union and Jefferson streets in downtown Jacksonville has been inundated with homeless people and tents over the last several weeks, but the block will be vacated Tuesday.
Jamil Boyd, 41, calls the site, nicknamed “Tent City,” home.
“I have been here for about three weeks,” he told News4Jax. “COVID hit, I got laid off.”
The residency of Tent City has grown over the last several weeks.
“Everybody who is out here, still out here, sticking it out, is actually needing the services,” Boyd said. “It is not a game.”
A count from volunteers on the property Sunday morning confirmed there were 153 tents with approximately 125 people within the perimeter secured by a fence and Jacksonville police.
Randy Reschly said he has lived at Tent City for about two weeks.
“I was all over Julia Street for two years, across from City Rescue, then I slept under 95 bridges in San Marco for two years,” he said.
Reschly said he’s been living on the streets of Jacksonville for seven years, and he will not be moving into a “temporary bridge shelter” Tuesday.
“I have a spot to take my tent,” he said. “I am not going in no shelter.”
With the homeless camp set to close Tuesday, the city plans to open the temporary bridge shelter, which will be open for 30 days to give people access to resources including restrooms, showers, food, water and other essential items, as well as employment, medical and social services. The location of the temporary shelter has not yet been released. After 30 days pass, the bridge shelter will be closed, but resources will continue to be available through Urban Rest Stop.
In addition to the bridge shelter, Sulzbacher, City Rescue Mission and Trinity Rescue Mission will have capacity, according to Changing Homelessness, which is providing direct service to those in need, including residents of Tent City.
Charlie Griffin, with First Coast Community Development, volunteers with Changing Homelessness.
“We’re one of the agencies that’s been coming down here since November,” explained Griffin. “Tuesday morning, we are going to transition. We have been so fortunate to have a building temporarily donated to us.”
The exact location of the building will not be disclosed until Tuesday when the temporary bridge shelter opens.
“Understand we cannot force them to go into the new location, but everyone on this property will have access to that building,” Griffin said. “It’s a 20,000-square-foot building.”
Griffin said an intake assessment will happen and people will be assigned a case manager.
“You will be able to get the services definitely needed for you,” Griffin said.
The city said the property at Union and Jefferson streets will remain fenced off and vacant.
According to Changing Homelessness, 48 medically vulnerable people were moved into hotels and enrolled in rapid rehousing, 12 households have taken advantage of the Homeward Bound Program to move back with friends or family outside of Northeast Florida, about 12 people have moved into existing shelters, and a few have entered substance treatment programs.
If you would like to donate, you’re encouraged to contact City Rescue Mission.