Jacksonville's poverty level growing

Study finds almost every city in study had increased poverty levels

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's poverty level is growing by record numbers, according to a new report.

The study looked at the 100 largest metropolitan areas and Jacksonville, which ranked 32nd, isn't the only one with the concerning numbers. The data shows that in almost every city, poverty levels increased.

A local financial planner said the numbers are depressing, but he also said he is hopeful because the economy is slowly coming back. The CEO for the Sulzbacher Center says that while the numbers are alarming, she believes she has the solution.

"If every business in Duval County hired one homeless person, we would have no homeless people. So that's what I always say. It always goes back to jobs and education, so when people don't have the appropriate education, they can't get the appropriate job," said Sulzbacher CEO Cindy Funkhouser.

Funkhouser said the support of local businesses is crucial to helping the homeless population in Jacksonville. She said the numbers are alarming.

Florida is home to 25 percent of all homeless families in the nation.

The Sulzbacher Center can house up to 31 families at a time and in the last two years, they've had up to 120 families on the waiting list; a sad turn away number that shows just how many Jacksonville families are struggling.

The new report shows Jacksonville had a growth in total poor population of 56 percent, an increase from 118,000 poor residents in 2000 to 184,000 poor residents between 2008 and 2012.

Funkhouser said these numbers are upsetting and said the key to helping the homeless improve their lives is to get local businesses involved, to help with training and education.

"Business community, if you want to help end poverty and end homelessness, then help us get our folks trained and into jobs. The market is turning, but the problem is it hasn't trickled down to our folks yet," said Funkhouser.

Titus Pittman with Genesis Financial Partners said these numbers are frankly depressing. He said the recession is likely a major culprit. But he is positive, saying the economy is slowing heading in the right direction.

"When the economy is bad, you see an increase when it's good we hope we attract more businesses to come into our city and hire more people and begin to pay a wage that's higher than the federal level," said Pittman.

Just to give you another idea of how many people the Sulzbacher Center serves each year, in the last year they served more than 500,000 meals to people in the community. They said families are having to choose between paying their rent and eating, so they are doing what they can to be there for them during financial struggles.