Jacksonville sheriff unveils budget ideas

Sheriff Rutherford targets ways to reduce homeless problem

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sheriff John Rutherford told city leaders what he needs to keep Jacksonville families safe after years of budget cutbacks.

Among the things on his "needs" list:

  • 40 community service officers after that program was cut. These are officers who help out with service calls, and without them uniformed police have to handle more minor calls.
  • Re-hiring 40 of the 147 officer positions that were cut last year
  • The cost for just these 80 spots would be a little over eight million dollars.

One other idea the sheriff announced Thursday is that he wants to build a homeless shelter  and a misdemeanor release center for the chronically homeless near the Clay County line.

"We use the city's property in the middle of a pine forest and we build a shelter out there," Rutherford said.

Rutherford believes if the shelter and the center are built  in a wooded area of city land off County Road 301, it would drastically cut down on homeless problems downtown.

"This is for homeless people who are not service ready," Rutherford said. "Like ones who go to Hemming Plaza and urinate in the fountain. We put them in jail, then four days later they return to the site of the problem."

Channel 4's Scott Johnson talked to the Suzlbacher Center about this and they think they have a better idea; something new called the Chop Program. It sets up homeless ex-cons in furnished apartments with access to services to get them on their feet.

William Young, who is homeless, said it's been a big help.

"The program that's going around right now, I already have about 10 of my friends helped off the street," Young said. "They're doing really, really well."

Carl Johnsen, who is also homeless, said he doesn't think putting homeless people at the county line will help.

"They're just going to walk back, this is where they feed you," said Johnsen. "It's a silly idea. They just going to walk back."

Rutherford said the misdemeanor release center would cost around $400,000 to build. He also said he has no idea how much a shelter would cost.

City Councilman Richard Clark estimated it would cost seven figures. Neither one could say where the money would come from.

Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.