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Jacksonville attorney's 'calling in life' is to advocate for building tiny homes for homeless

Al Barlow wrote a petition he hopes will get the attention of Duval County voters to put his funding idea on the ballot

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville attorney Al Barlow has made it his personal mission to make sure the city's homeless find a place to call home, beyond the streets of downtown.

"I feel like everything I have gone through in life, a lot of hard times and everything else, brought me to the point to help these people. It's like a calling in life to me," Barlow told First Coast News.

He's proposing a change to the city's charter by requiring five cents of every dollar from grants or forgivable loans given to companies that develop downtown. Those funds would be used to build and fund a tiny house community for the homeless.

"There's not been too many things that can fire me up like trying to help these people," he said.

Homeless advocates, including the CEO of Changing Homelessness, applaud Barlow's approach.

Dawn Gilman says Miami-Dade County is the only county in the state with a local, reliable funding stream dedicated to ending homelessness. To do that in Northeast Florida, she estimates the price tag could reach $100 million.

"It would probably turn into $20 million a year for at least three to five consecutive years to really dramatically reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness," Gilman said.

Changing homelessness relies on grants from the federal, state and local levels, but funding each year in not guaranteed.

Gilman explains finding, and even building homes, would be cheaper in the long run compared to the ongoing finances of providing help.

"It actually costs us less to house a person who is homeless than to serve them through all the different sectors while they are homeless, especially if they have been on the streets for a long while," she said.

For more information about Barlow's proposal, click here.

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