Downtown Vision, Inc.‘s executive director Terry Lorince submitted the following editorial to the Florida Times-Union in partnership with Shannon Nazworth, executive director, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center, and Dawn Gilman, executive director, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition. This editorial appeared in the Florida Times-Union print edition on Saturday, March 22, 2014 and can also be read on Jacksonville.com. We welcome feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we talk about ways to revitalize downtown Jacksonville, the topic of homelessness always comes up.
It’s important to note that most homelessness is due to the lack of an affordable place to live.
Statistics show that if you give the homeless affordable places to live, they will not return to homelessness.
The most successful intervention is to provide short-term financial assistance so these individuals can get into a home. And to provide solutions — or “wraparound” services — so they can retain housing.
You might be surprised to know this about homelessness in Jacksonville:
■ According to a recent survey by the Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida, there are 400 chronically homeless individuals in downtown Jacksonville alone.
■ 25 percent of the local homeless population is not from Jacksonville. They ended up here because they were following a job, hoping to get a job or other circumstances.
■ Veterans account for approximately 25 percent of our homeless population. Many are struggling with PTSD and are shelter averse. That means they won’t live among a large population in a shelter with noise, chaos and crowds. These individuals are best served through individual housing programs.
■ The cost to arrest and jail a homeless person includes $884 for booking and $62 per day to house them.
■ The average cost of a single chronically homeless person is $50,000 per year. That includes jail time, emergency room visits, social services and other costs.
■ It costs between $12,000 and $24,000 to provide a permanent supportive housing solution for that same individual.
So by providing affordable housing, these programs can save the community up to $30,000 per individual housed.
100 Homes Jacksonville, administered by Ability Housing, has housed more than 500 individuals across the region since 2012.
A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
It is a collaboration of multiple agencies, including the Veterans Administration, River Region, the Sulzbacher Center, Clara White Mission, the Jacksonville Housing Authority, Mental Health Resource Center and the Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition.
When launched, 100 Homes Jacksonville’s goal was to house 100 people in one year.
Today, the goal is to continue to house 30 individuals per month.
Homeward Bound is a partnership between the Sulzbacher Center and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that seeks homeless people who’ve been on the street for less than six months and have no friends or family in Jacksonville.
The program tracks down relatives and friends in other cities and sends these individuals back home where they can seek permanent shelter.
The Sulzbacher Center and JSO have also partnered to launch the CHOP program to get chronic homeless offenders off the streets and out of jail.
This program is also a collaboration of the Sulzbacher Center, Public Defender’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, judges, the jail and Salvation Army probation program.
Downtown Jacksonville is making great strides in reducing homelessness. There is no single solution. It will continue to require many people collaborating and working together to solve this problem.
The authors are:
■ Terry Lorince, executive director, Downtown Vision Inc.
■ Shannon Nazworth, executive director, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida.
■ Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center.
■ Dawn Gilman, executive director, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition.