JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The temporary bridge shelter set up in downtown Jacksonville will close Thursday.
The shelter was a solution to help people experiencing homelessness who took refuge at the corner of Jefferson and Union streets -- an area that became known as “Tent City.” The effort was spearheaded by several agencies, including Changing Homelessness.
As of Wednesday, about 35 people remained at the temporary bridge shelter, according to Changing Homelessness CEO Dawn Gilman.
“The total number of people we have assisted at the bridge shelter is 187,” Gilman said. “We have also helped another 400 to 500 people through the temporary non-congregate shelter, which is the hotel rooms through funding through DCF (Department of Children and Families) and the city of Jacksonville.”
Gilman said most of Jacksonville’s shelters are operating at 70% or more.
“Ironically, at this moment, we have more shelter beds available now than we did pre-pandemic because we are still running about 200 hotel rooms, plus another 1,000 shelter beds between Hubbard House, Sulzbacher, City Rescue Mission, Trinity Rescue Mission and Salvation Army,” Gilman said.
The temporary bridge shelter was set up similar to a hurricane shelter, according to Gilman.
“There were always three meals a day. It was always a safe environment. There was a lot greater freedom of how people could come and go, and there were a lot of agencies that were there, talking to folks and being willing to work,” explained Gilman. “There is always someone that may decide not to go into shelter, that may decide not to go into housing. Again, that is their choice. Everybody has been offered something. Everybody has a plan, their plan, their exit plan to where they want to go to.”
There was a shuttle running Wednesday from the shelter to the Urban Rest Stop, located in Sulzbacher Center. People will have the opportunity to store their belongings at the Urban Rest Stop until they find housing. In addition, they will have access to mental health resources, showers and laundry.