Changing Homelessness Jacksonville selected for $2.5 million grant

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos ‘Day 1 Families Fund’ selected just two Florida organizations for grants

One of the largest agencies serving Duval County’s homeless population will receive a $2.5 million grant from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the largest agencies serving Duval County’s homeless population will receive a $2.5 million grant from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Changing Homelessness was selected by the Day 1 Families Fund -- a private gift organization launched by Jeff Bezos to help families in need.

Only two out of the 40 nonprofits selected are located in Florida, the other recipient is based in Miami.

News4JAX spoke with the CEO of Changing Homelessness who said they’re immediately starting to work on their plan to get people off the street.

Homelessness is a serious issue in Duval County and the organization has been working on the issue for decades.

Now, with help from a $2.5 million grant from Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s Day 1 Families Fund -- Changing Homelessness CEO Dawn Gilman says the organization plans to tackle these issues on a grander scale.

“This grant is for families that are literally homeless living on the street and their cars,” Gilman said. “So, we will probably be working with several of our partners like Sulzbacher Center, Hubbard House, they all have other things that we can braid together to get a greater impact to reduce the number of families experiencing homelessness.”

The Day 1 Family Fund is giving Changing Homelessness five years to implement their plan.

The grant does not fund building additional shelters – instead the organization will focus on solving problems that led people to homelessness in the first place.

“It could be a lot of different things that a household or a family might need to get off the street,” Gilman said. “It could be a job, day care, transportation. What is the real issue going on? What would it really take to get back to where you were before or to get you back in a different place?”

Homelessness does not just impact the people living on the street.

Steve Tillman is the owner of Tillman Auto shop on Beach Boulevard and said it is hurting his business. He showed News4JAX a camp behind his business where he says dozens of homeless people live.

Tillman told us it is a safety concern.

“It’s an ongoing problem of theft and loss and vandalism and it’s the same for all the businesses,” Tillman said.

Tillman adds that on numerous occasions he had to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to chase people off his property.

He’s planning on putting up a fence as a temporary solution.

“If I clean all this out and I don’t put my fence up it’ll look just like that in about two weeks,” Tillman said. “Sad ain’t it? But it’s a societal problem.”

Changing Homelessness is still developing its plan of action, but their goal is to hopefully get as many people as possible off the street for good within the next five years.

The Bezos Day 1 Fund website says it made a $2 billion commitment nationwide to focus on making meaningful and lasting impacts in two areas: funding existing non-profits that help families experiencing homelessness, and creating a network of new, non-profit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.