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As Jacksonville homeless camp grows, city hopes to gain more funding

Shelters forced to reduce bed capacity due to COVID-19 social distancing rules

Shelters forced to reduce bed capacity due to COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Shelters forced to reduce bed capacity due to COVID-19 social distancing rules.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Katherine Creed is trying to survive. Three months ago, she lost her apartment.

Now, the corner of North Jefferson and West Beaver streets is home.

“A lot of people don’t care and some people do care,” Creed told News4Jax. “There are some compassionate people, but sometimes it’s a little far and wide. Sometimes you might get one meal a day.”

At 62 years old, Creed should be planning for retirement or spending time with loved ones. For now, that is not an option.

She showed News4Jax her bed, tucked underneath a blue tarp, protected from any potential rain. Depending on the day, there are 20 to 40 people living in the homeless camp.

Ju’Coby Pittman is the CEO and president of the Clara White Mission, which helps Jacksonville’s homeless people. The mission is across the street from the homeless camp.

“Now we are in a pandemic, so space is different,” Pittman said.

Shelters have been forced to reduce their bed capacity by 50% due to COVID-19 social distancing rules. So for some, the camp is their best option.

Creed says she sees people of all ages living on the streets.

“This lady right here, she’s 85 years old. That’s the oldest one that I know of,” Creed said.

According to 2020 point-in-time data from the organization Changing Homelessness, the homeless population is decreasing for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties combined from approximately 3,200 down to about 1,500 people in the last 10 years.

“It’s understandable that there seems to be a more visual appearance of homeless because the shelters are at 50 percent capacity, so they have been opening up hotels and providing resources when people need access to them,” said Dawn Lockhart, director of strategic partnerships for Mayor Lenny Curry’s office.

Some homeless people feel it’s safer outside and don’t want to lose the few personal items they have if they go inside a shelter. They hope to get port-a-potties, garbage cans and more tents as they try to figure out a better way to live.

“We do need help. Any kind of help, you know?” Creed said. “People need to have more compassion and not look down on us like we are bums. Some people do have this as a choice. This is not my choice. This is not the way I want to live.”

LINK: Jacksonville homeless shelters & services

The city is looking forward to more Cares Act funding to help homeless people and get more of them in hotels.


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