Fence going up as city begins to move people out of downtown homeless camp

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Starting next Tuesday, the people living at a homeless camp in downtown Jacksonville will no longer be allowed to stay there.

Workers were digging holes to build a fence throughout Wednesday. The City Of Jacksonville told News4Jax people who live at the camp are encouraged to go to existing homeless shelters now and will not be able to stay at the site nicknamed “Tent City” after next Tuesday.

“It’s just another way for them to move these people out of this area and then you have to go to another place,” said Annette Spears, who lives at the camp.

Spears moved to Tent City last week but has been homeless for the past seven years. She’s one of about 100 people who live at the camp.

“It’s just normal. This is what they do they push you out of everywhere there’s not a bathroom everywhere and they want you to get a job but there’s no restrooms,” said Spears.

The city’s goal is to end homelessness but says it can’t do that without providing the resources.

As the fence goes up, a “temporary bridge shelter” will open next Tuesday for about 150 people for 30 days. It will connect people to bathroom and shower facilities as well as food and water, employment, medical and social services. After the 30 days are up the bridge shelter will close.

The city said 48 people who were living at the camp are now staying in extended-stay hotels and 10 others have been given money to pay for transportation to a safe home site through the homeward bound program. The city said it verified the information before handing out the money.

Spears says it’s all happening as more tents are popping up.

“Two came from South Carolina, one came from California,” said Spears.

City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman said there’s 150 to 200 at the camp currently.

“Last week I was here and I saw one of the police cars from Camden County and they dropped off a couple people,” said Pittman. “Two people got out of the car. We have several surrounding counties that are dropping individuals off -- Saint Johns County, Savannah, Pompano, so people are getting the word. What we don’t want to happen is false hope.”

Pittman said she wants the individuals who are currently here waiting for services to get help.

The city confirmed people are coming in from out of state to take advantage of its program.

The camp will close on March 9 but the city is hoping some people will begin moving into shelters before then.

Several shelters had bed availability Tuesday night including four dozen beds at City Rescue Mission right across the street from Tent City.

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