Site up in air for homeless day shelter in Jacksonville

Springfield residents dispute possible location

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Joann Trednennick says the fact that the city is considering using the old downtown Jacksonville Armory Building at State and Market streets on the edge of Springfield as a possible day shelter for the homeless is ridiculous.

"I was horrified," Trednennick, of the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council, said of the idea. "We already struggle here to cohabitate with a substantial number of vagrants, addicts and alcoholics on our streets and lurking, hanging out around our homes."

The site is one of three being proposed, but it's the one gaining the most attention right now.

Trednennick says there are already homeless shelters and social programs downtown, and she says a day shelter needs to go somewhere else.

The mayor's staff has not yet decided where a shelter will go, and no money has been committed to the project. The staff is looking for a place that up to 400 people could use just during the day for showers, mail and other services. There would be no beds.

The armory is one possible site, and so is the old Lee and Cates Glass building downtown on Forsyth Street. The city was also considering using a building next to a community corrections center downtown on East Church Street, but it was recently torn down.

Mayor Alvin Brown originally hoped there would be a day shelter open by the first of next year.

"That's a tough timeline," said Karen Bowling, of the mayor's office. "We'd rather it be right and efficient. I think we are going to be pretty close. It depends on how much build-out is required, what are all the services that we want to have, how much help can we get?"

There is a move by some to avoid downtown and build a day shelter far away from it.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Assistant Chief Michelle Cook said she doesn't think a day shelter will make a difference downtown.

"I think what the city needs is what Sheriff (John) Rutherford has been proposing, which is a remote misdemeanor release center in a remote part of town," Cook said. "The challenge we have with a lot of folks is when they are released from jail and they have nowhere else to go and they have no support system, they come right back over here and continue to engage in behavior that is not necessarily desirable."

Others say that's the point. Father Hugh Chapman, who runs homeless services downtown, says the support groups are already there.

"I think ideally a downtown site would prove better for homeless in terms of accessibility," said Chapman, of Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment. "If you put this out in the city, they would have to get transportation."

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