As part of the plan to revitalize downtown, the City of Jacksonville announced that it will build a permanent homeless facility in Hemming Plaza. Since the city has utilized Hemming Plaza as a temporary homeless facility for the past few years, the move to make it permanent seems like a no brainer.
Currently, the homeless folks are forced to sleep in chairs that were designed for city hall workers to have lunch at, which is causing an inconvenience to the homeless. Furthermore, when feedings take place, the homeless receive their food out of the back of vans, subjecting both the homeless and the feeders to the elements. That's got to change, according to downtown restaraunteur Terry Noran. "I've always been a huge advocate of having more social service facilities downtown. The biggest problem today is connectivity. Now with this facility, it will break up the monotony of a homeless person's walk today, and allow them to finally get the services that they need, right on the steps of City Hall.
City Hall employees agree. "This will provide for a much better lunchtime experience," says Dudley Dooright, a City Hall employee who notices daily the problems that the homeless face in Hemming. "Finally, while enjoying my Schlitz at lunchtime, there will be a more comfortable, permanent place to chat with the homeless. The highlight of my day is enjoying a drink with Lester, listening to him tell me how God is going to end the planet next week. One of these weeks, he'll be right."
In a recent Downtown Vision Survey, one of the biggest complaints from businesspeople downtown was the lack of homeless facilities. By building a new facility, the folks at the Dalton Agency should love the added ambiance outside of their headquarters.
Homeless feedings are a headache for all involved downtown. The crux of the issue - feedings take place in the elements, out of vans that have to parallel park in order to provide food. The new facility will have simple, angled parking docks next to a homeless cafeteria. The Homeless cafeteria is just part of the new Hemming Plaza Homeless center.
Without adequate homeless facilities in Downtown Jacksonville, the homeless are forced to use either trashcans (above), or the specially designed planter outside of Terry Noran's restaraunt.
The city plans to cut the ribbon of the new facility in December, at the same time that the Laura Street improvments are completed. The city feels that by having an anchor at both ends of Laura Street (The Landing being the other anchor), it will truly make Laura Street the lovely lady of Downtown Jacksonville.
With The Jacksonville landing serving as one anchor on Laura Street, it's only fitting that the homeless facility serves as the other anchor. Without it, when folks walk up the new streetscaping on Laura Street, they will see the deplorable situation the homeless centers are in here in Jacksonville
DISCLAIMER: This article is satire for April Fool's Day and the city has not announced any plans for a homeless shelter in Hemming Plaza. However, downtown does have a considerable problem with the growing number of homeless and Hemming Plaza, as well as the downtown library, have become the de facto homeless day center.
This situation does need serious attention.