Homelessness at 'crisis level' as Sulzbacher Center hosts fundraiser

'Transformations' fundraiser hopes to raise $400K for Jacksonville center

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rising rent costs are causing a disturbing uptick in the number of homeless families in Northeast Florida, according to the president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center.

Forty families are on the Jacksonville homeless center's waiting list, and the need is great, Cindy Funkhouser said. 

"Really, over the last year, we've seen an uptick in homeless families. It's at the point right now that we're at a crisis level," Funkhouser said. "The rate of apartment rent just keeps going up, and the salaries and income are not keeping pace with that."

Funkhouser said the problem is growing at such a fast pace, providers are sometimes forced to turn families away.

She said the situation is so serious, there are times when they have to have families sleep in common areas on the floor.

The Sulzbacher Center will hold its annual fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Times-Union Center. Tickets are $50.

The event, called "Transformations," will include stories focusing on its Sulzbacher Village community on Springfield Boulevard, which opened in May.

Allison Gornail is one such story. She, her fiance and two children moved into the Village last month. From the living room and kitchen to the bedrooms, the apartments are furnished to look like real homes. 

"It feels like a safe place for me and my children to be," Gornail said. "Just didn't have anywhere to go. I tried to stay with family members and stuff like that, but I wasn't really sure if the help was genuine."

The Village has a pediatric clinic, learning center and on-site dental clinic.

Funkhouser said 90 percent of families who seek help at the Sulzbacher Center involve single mothers.

The goal of Thursday's fundraiser is to raise more than $400,000. 

"That's what pays for the lights to be on. That's what pays for the food we serve people. That's what pays for the staff that monitor the facilities," Funkhouser said. "We cannot operate without the money that we get from 'Transformations.'"

The Sulzbacher Center focuses on ending homelessness around the city by empowering men, women and children through housing, health care and income services. 

For information on tickets for the fundraiser or to donate to help the center, go to sulzbacherjax.org.

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