JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The people living in a homeless encampment in Downtown Jacksonville have one week to move out of the area.
The City of Jacksonville said they are setting up a temporary indoor shelter, which they hope is where dozens of people living in tents will move for 30 days.
Some people were taken aback when Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers were at the camp on Union and Jefferson Streets informing people about various resources for homeless people in Downtown.
Annette Spears lives at this homeless camp downtown and feels the homelessness problem is not being addressed properly.
“They’re throwing us off of here, like they throw people off the dog park Downtown, and they throw everybody off all the time,” Spears said.
The city is moving people to what it calls a temporary bridge shelter next week, which can hold 150 people.
City Councilwoman JuCoby Pittman visited the camp on Wednesday night said she is excited about the resources coming together to form the temporary shelter.
“It’s in a safe environment," Pittman explained. "It has all of the comprehensive services that’s needed."
The overnight shelter will be open for 30 days and connect people to resources like bathrooms and showers, medical, employment and social services along with food, water and hygiene kits.
It is not clear how many people live at the camp, but it grew since the city announced a new program to help the homeless population last month.
If someone does not leave the site, the city said they will need to seek alternative shelter.
According to a city spokesperson, 48 people out of 54 accepted the city’s offer to be placed in a hotel and find permanent housing.
Pittman explained by the time those people came out, more came to the site in downtown.
“It’s something when you’re not aware of what’s going on, but this process has been very inclusive of the volunteers as well as the campers are out here and they know what the next step is,” Pittman said.
Pittman said that she wants to ease the minds of people who may have reservations about leaving the camp.
“We’re not looking for anything else but a smooth process," Pittman explained. "We’re going to make sure people have their dignity, we’re going to give them an opportunity to take their tents down, we’ll have volunteers to help them do that, we’ll have transporation if they can’t walk where this new site is."
She said the City Rescue Mission has organized and given orders to make the project a success.
If people do not want to go to the temporary shelter, the city encourages people to visit other shelters.
“Individuals can also go to local shelters, all of which have had and continue to have open beds and resources,” city spokesperson Nikki Kimbleton told First Coast News.
The city says they are responsible for enforcing code violations and say they must relocate the camp to a place that is not a public health and safety risk.
“A lot of individuals, they don’t want to be out here but they don’t have any other place to go,” Pittman said.
The city says someone will need to seek alternative shelter if they do not want to leave, but some people say they do not want to leave the site.
“This is my life because I sleep out here because I want to, I’m sick of the way people are being treated,” Caleb Zachery Poole told First Coast News.
“We’re not leaving,” Poole said.
The city says that the site will remain vacant and fenced off. Individuals are allowed to stay at the site until next week or find shelter at one of the nearby homeless shelters in downtown.
The temporary shelter opens March 9.