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Residents concerned about plans for homeless housing complex

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in Jacksonville’s Brentwood area aren’t happy about plans to bring a housing complex for the homeless to the neighborhood.

The Sulzbacher Center is planning to build about 70 affordable apartment units on 44th and Pearl streets.

The $20-million building will be for women and families.

The center held a meeting Thursday to talk with residents about the plans for Sulzbacher Village. 

Officials with the center invited about five residents to a local restaurant to talk about the project, but word spread and nearly 30 residents came out.

Those residents said they don’t have a problem with the Sulzbacher Center or helping people in need, they are just concerned about what having a new housing complex in the area will mean for their community.
Some residents said they feel they’ve been left out of the loop in the process.

Janice Taylor’s house will be blocks away from the new housing facility, which is set to open in October 2017. She was among those who showed up Thursday to discuss her concerns with Sulzbacher representatives.

“My biggest concern is that they wanted to have five people come to the meeting,” Taylor said.

The center asked News4Jax to remove its cameras from the meeting as the CEO spoke with residents about the project, which is still in the planning phase.

Construction is set to start in July, which was alarming to some residents, including Taylor.

“I have lived in my house since 1966 and my question to them was, 'When were you going to let us know?'” Taylor said.

The Sulzbacher Center held a meeting with residents last June, then another months later in October. Residents said they haven’t heard anything since then.

“There has been no transparency about what is going on,” resident Lydia Faida Bell said. “If you are not speaking to the community, speaking to the homeowners, notifying us about what it's for, what are you doing?”

Sulzbacher President and CEO Cindy Funkhouser did not talk with News4Jax but told residents the apartments would not be a homeless shelter and addressed one of their biggest concerns: safety.

She said security and staffing would be provided 24/7, and she highlighted services at the center, like health care, that would be available to everyone in the community.

“I think they talked more about the benefits of the center and not necessarily the impact on the community, so I think that's where we (still) have to get the answers,” said Al Turner of the Northshore Neighborhood Association.

All sides said they hope to have another meeting in the near future.