Proposed move of Sulzbacher takes spotlight at town hall

Homeless center CEO has said no concrete plans yet of new location

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Weeks after Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis said he was approached by leadership at the Sulzbacher Center, he held a community meeting Tuesday to discuss the facility possibly relocating.

Dennis said the idea of potentially moving the homeless shelter to a location in his district on Fairfax Street was brought to his attention in late June. Around the same time, Cindy Funkhouser, the organization’s president and CEO, told News4Jax that nothing had been set in stone.

“We have and continue to vet properties all the time,” Funkhouser said.

The proposed location on Fairfax Street is a 12.5 acre lot. Both the CEO and Darnell Smith, who is on the organization’s board of directors, told residents attending the meeting that they wanted to build short-term and long-term housing on the lot along with a job training center, a manufacturing plant, workforce housing for people who work in the plant, a grocery store and a three-story health clinic.

“We’re thinking about people right here today, inside of this community, who might find themselves needing a better job opportunity and they find themselves being helped by this opportunity,” Smith said.

But some of the people living in the community who attended the meeting said that although they support the Sulzbacher’s mission of helping homeless people get back on their feet, they can’t support the idea of having the campus moved into their community and that the community is already suffering from poverty and requires help directly from the city.

“Listen, you all can keep it downtown or take over to Regency. They got buildings over there that’s empty. Fix them up. Do something with them. But don’t bring it out here to our area,” one person said.

“That center you (were) trying to develop would be better placed downtown in an area where you have a lot of people without housing,” another person said.

Moving the facility from downtown is something the center has talked about for the past three years. Its current location is in a floodplain.

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