Are homeless being dumped in Jacksonville?

Video shows woman sent to River City from Lake City mental health facility

Published On: Nov 30 2012 03:18:26 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 30 2012 09:40:36 PM EST

A video interview obtained by Channel 4 shows a homeless woman who says she was put on a Greyhound bus to Jacksonville from Lake city because Jacksonville is better equipped to handle the homeless.

Channel 4 agreed not to identify the woman, who says a mental health facility in Lake city where she was being treated purchased her ticket and sent her to the River City. She was asked why.

"Because there is no homeless shelter in Lake City. I had no place to go," the woman said. "They told me there was as shelter across from the (bus) station."

Channel 4's Jim Piggott said that when he's done stories in the past on the homeless problems in Jacksonville, he's heard that people were bussed into town.

Jerry Moran, who owns a downtown restaurant and has been trying to get the city to deal with the homeless problem, gave Piggott a classified ad from a South Florida newspaper that reads the following:

"Homeless come to Jacksonville. Over 10 shelters to choose from. A beautiful Park, Hemming Plaza, filled with tables and benches, and a food for your daily routine and enjoyment. A state of the art library for cold and rainy days, and friendly citizens, police and city workers."

Police confirmed the ad ran several years ago.

Mayor Alvin Brown announced Thursday he is opening a homeless day shelter to help with the problems.

Some have questions whether the services are just creating more of a problem and that's why people are coming here. But Dawn Gilman, the head of Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida, says the numbers don't show that.

"I do hear that on a regular basis," Gilman said. "We do not have a whole lot of data that supports that."

In fact, Gilman says the coalition's studies show that of the 3,000 to 4,000 homeless in Jacksonville, 70 percent are from the River City. She has only heard of four cases where someone was bussed in, but she says the coalition needs to investigate this latest claim.

"If you are putting someone who has some sort of mental illness on a bus to a city they have never been to before, that is not a good thing for the person involved," Gilman said. "They don't know where to go to, they may have limited abilities to navigate safely. So that is something we will really try to address."

As for the woman in the video, she is still in town and one local shelter was able to find a bed for her Thursday night.

"Well, I am going to get the help I need and get myself on my feet, get a job and place to live," she said.