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Jacksonville's homeless leave Hemming Park, relocate downtown

Nonprofit's renovation caused homeless to move to library, other park

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hemming Park was once a place where derelicts gathered in Downtown Jacksonville, but after a private group renovated the park, some of the city's homeless have relocated.

After Friends of Hemming Park paid $175,000 to revamp Hemming Park, it became a place where children and workers can go during the day and enjoy the sights. Homeless people who used to gather there are now turning to the Jacksonville Public Library downtown and Main Street Park.

During the day, Main Street Park has become a place where vagrants gather and some go to sleep. News4Jax cameras were rolling when police rousted people sleeping on the sidewalk.

"I think it's a concern for downtown," said Bill Prescott, with Friends of Hemming Park. "If you're going to be in the park, you have to abide by the rules."

Prescott continued, "You have to make it welcoming for everybody. That's really the only change we made."

On Tuesday, Prescott asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry's staff for more money to host more concerts and family events at Hemming Park. That's when News4Jax learned some of the homeless have relocated not only at Main Street Park, but at the air-conditioned library.

In the downtown library on Wednesday, News4Jax noticed several transients. Library staff said anyone can stay as long as they obey the rules. They have not seen an increase in the number of complaints or issues concerning the homeless.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Lifetime Jacksonville resident, journalist and experienced broadcast news producer with a passion for classic and exotic cars.