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Could more affordable housing solve Jacksonville’s homelessness crisis?

Temporary homeless shelter downtown closing soon
Temporary homeless shelter downtown closing soon

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The effort to help struggling households keep a roof over their head is happening at the national level with the passage of President Joe Biden’s relief package and at a local level with the passage of several bills.

RELATED: City crews clear homeless camp from Downtown Jacksonville property

Jacksonville’s initiative to end homelessness continues with City Council:

  • Appropriating $5.8 million to provide aid and assistance to eligible low and moderate income individuals and families.
  • Securing $6 million to support individuals and families who are homeless or receiving homelessness prevention assistance.
  • Obtaining $28.9 million in Emergency Rental Assistance program grant funds.

“Right now, especially during this COVID time, we are working to get these people off the streets,” said Dawn Gilman, CEO of Changing Homelessness.

Dawn Gilman is CEO of Changing Homelessness (WJXT)

But Gilman said that requires affordable housing, which means different things to different people.

“It’s a range, and that is the important part of the conversation,” Gilman said. “We are always looking for a range of housing options that people can access.” People like Michael Burks, who has been calling the streets of Jacksonville home for two years.

“It’s hard,” Burks said. “They need a day shelter, a true day shelter. Let them come in and do the things they need to do with no hassle.”

According to data collected by the University of Florida, Jacksonville currently has more than 20,000 units listed as affordable housing options. Gilman said that is not enough.

“Until we have enough housing that a person experiencing homelessness can access, and afford after all supports ends, we don’t end homelessness,” Gilman said. “We probably need 5,000 additional units that fall in our affordability scale. But we need 500 of those units to be that deeply affordable permanent supportive housing with both that financial support and those wraparound services for people.”


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