The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the Jacksonville Housing Authority $740,400 through the CARES Act to provide 100 vouchers to help Jacksonville residents avoid losing their homes.
The CARES Act allowed HUD to allocate vouchers to public housing agencies like JHA to help them prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus in their communities.
The Housing Authority says it plans to apply for more vouchers because of the need that exists in the city.
On Christmas morning, Emily Knight-Smith, with the Sulzbacher Center, said there were no volunteers helping cook.
“Which is the first time in 25 years we’ve not had volunteers cooking Christmas morning,” she explained.
They haven’t seen volunteers since March, when COVID-19 made its way into the city and the country.
The virus spread and shutdowns forced people into their homes, some losing jobs, facing evictions and turning to centers like Sulzbacher.
Florida’s unemployment rate in November was 6.4%, and in Duval -- 5.8% AdvisorSmith.com lists Florida as the second-highest risk state of evictions, at 15.6%.
Knight-Smith said with government support over the last few months, the rate of homelessness decreased, but she says it wasn’t enough.
“Before the pandemic, there was already a housing crisis. There wasn’t enough housing, there’s not enough affordable housing to go around,” she said.
The vouchers will fund residents with safe and sanitary housing for those facing homelessness.
“Basically, if someone is facing evection or they don’t have the income to be able to afford the monthly rent, the voucher actually subsidizes the cost,” explained Dwayne Alexander, CEO of the Housing Authority.
The voucher can be used in any community and they are based on the resident’s income.
“We would like to be able to apply for more vouchers because it’s my understanding that further down the road that HUD may be putting more vouchers on the street to come back this big wave of evections that may be coming in the new year,” Alexander said.
Earlier this week HUD also awarded JHA a new $321,453 grant through the department’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which helps local public housing authorities to hire service coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with existing programs and services in the local community.