Pathway to Home is a new program focused on helping our homeless population overcome the struggles and challenges because of COVID-19 and get back on their feet.
When I declared our local state of emergency in March of last year, we didn’t know how long this virus would affect our community. We didn’t know how severely this virus would impact Jacksonville families, not only from illness but also from the economic impacts of shutdowns and restrictions on businesses.
The virus presented unique challenges for our homeless providers too; challenges that required significant changes to the way they operate. Based on CDC recommendations, local shelters decreased their capacity by 50% to provide safe, socially distanced spaces for residents. These same restrictions also reduced the ability of our partners to accept volunteers to help manage workloads and provide services.
Read the full news release about Pathway to Home
And because of necessary restrictions on what clients could bring into the shelters, many refused and opted instead for outdoor camps that have sprung up in parts of our city. These camps, with so many people in close together, present a public health risk. That’s why, over the last few months, my team and our partners have been developing and launching solutions to help our most vulnerable citizens restore their dignity by providing a pathway to home.
Years before COVID-19, back in 2017, I assembled a Downtown Homelessness Taskforce to align efforts and foster collaboration between the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to end homelessness in our community. Prior to the pandemic, through the various efforts we launched such as the Urban Rest Stop and the Health & Hope on Wheels program, we achieved some remarkable results:
- From 2019 to 2020 we saw a 7% reduction in total homelessness, and 39% reduction in chronic homelessness (defined as someone who has experienced homelessness for more than a year, or at least 4 times in the past 3 years).
- And over the past decade, from 2010 to 2020, we saw a 52% reduction in total homelessness and a 64% reduction in total veteran homelessness.
Because of these impressive accomplishments and more, Jacksonville is recognized and showcased as a model city for our pandemic response. And we continue to implement new, innovative solutions—like this Pathway to Home program—to better protect the health and safety of our citizens experiencing homelessness.
I want to personally thank all the members of my Downtown Homelessness Taskforce for their collaboration, commitment, and service to our community. They have been working to tackle homelessness in our community since long before the pandemic.
I am proud of this work. I am proud of the accomplishments we’ve achieved both before and during COVID-19. But we also recognize that there is much more work left to do, and we remain committed to doing it.