Daytime resource center to help homeless in Jacksonville

Mayor announces 1-year pilot project with City Rescue Mission

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City Rescue Mission is partnering with the city of Jacksonville to administer a one-year pilot project that will host a daytime resource center intended to transform the lives of Jacksonville's homeless.

Mayor Alvin Brown applauded the City Rescue Mission and its CEO, David Bugher, during Thursday's announcement, saying it marked a significant step toward developing solutions for those who are trying to rebuild themselves amid personal and economic challenges.

Improvements at the City Rescue Mission's downtown campus for the pilot project will begin in December with plans to create capacity for up to 200 people during business hours, three days each week starting in January.

One city staff member will be assigned as a liaison to the center, but operational costs and duties throughout the pilot project will be handled through private donations and the efforts -- both paid and volunteer -- of homeless people benefiting from the facility. The costs are estimated to be about $70,000.

"We are seeing partnership-driven innovation at work in a way that will benefit everyone in our city," Brown said. "This is more than a shelter. It's a voice for the voiceless and it's a tool to help people help themselves, to recapture self-sufficiency and to rebuild self-esteem. One life at a time, we can and we will build a stronger community."

City Rescue Mission's downtown campus is located on State Street. The facility already offers emergency shelter and serves hundreds of people daily through a variety of programs. Bugher said expanding services to include the daytime resource center fits well into the center's charitable vision.

"City Rescue Mission is eager to be part of this project and hopes final negotiations make that possible," Bugher said.

The purpose of the daytime resource center is to provide a safe area for the homeless with centralized access to workforce skills training and transitional housing services, Brown said. The center will use a "clubhouse" model, wherein all patrons must obtain a membership that is earned and retained on the basis of positive, non-disruptive behavior, officials said.

They said plans for the facility include Internet access, showers, washers and dryers, office space, telephones with community voice mail and mailbox access.

Rebeka Haskinson is one of the many homeless who hang out in Hemming Plaza. She doesn't like staying overnight in shelters and says she lives on the street for now. She learned Thursday of the city's plan for a day shelter.

"So this is a really good idea," Haskinson said. "So if they have voice mail, more people are going to be able to stay in touch with their family."

"Homelessness is a growing and complex problem," said Sheriff John Rutherford. "This could be an answer for one segment of that population, and I hope it will be successful for those people."

Along with crucial programs and services, the daytime resource center also would provide temporary respite from inclement weather.

"Opening a drop-in center has been a goal of the coalition and our member agencies since 2004," said Dawn Gilman, executive director of the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Jacksonville Inc. "With Mayor Brown's commitment, we will have the opportunity to demonstrate the benefit of the program to the community. This will be a true public-private partnership with the city of Jacksonville, the faith community, nonprofits and the business community."

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