June 22, 2020 – Jacksonville has made major strides in reducing homelessness in the past decade, significantly outpacing national progress metrics, according to a new report shared today with local organizations working to end homelessness. The report reveals that between 2009 and 2019, Jacksonville homelessness service providers successfully reduced the city’s overall homeless population by 32 percent, compared to the national average of 10 percent. This local success includes an 82 percent reduction in homeless veterans, a 46 percent reduction in homeless families and a 60 percent reduction in the chronically homeless. Despite these achievements, the report notes opportunities for improved community support overall, and especially for unsheltered, single adults in Jacksonville, whose population has increased by 20 percent during that same period.
The report, led by former executive director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Barbara Poppe, is the latest step in a multi-year collaborative conversation among the many organizations and stakeholders supporting the homeless in Jacksonville. Snapshot: A High-Level Review of the Regional Approach to Homelessness in Jacksonville, FL incorporates data and expertise from a variety of system administrators and service providers, as well as interviews with people experiencing homelessness. The report was funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida and the Henri Landwirth Family Advised Fund.
“Over the past several years of collaboration and conversation among the organizations serving the homeless in Jacksonville, it became clear that an objective review of our data and protocols would help us identify ways to better work together,”said Katie Ensign, vice president of placemaking and administration for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and a board member for the North Florida Continuum of Care. “Having relevant organizations and administrators at the table, with the benefit of expert insight into effective systems and how other communities are successfully working together, is critical to make real and lasting progress toward our shared goal of ending homelessness.”
The report examines the current state of Jacksonville’s homelessness assistance programs,the characteristics of the homeless population and the availability of quality data that influences funding. It identifies barriers that prevent organizations from successfully transitioning the homeless to permanent, affordable housing. The report also provides recommendations focused on increased community-wide collaboration; reliance on comprehensive, quality data to inform funding and interventions; and interventions and philosophies that are successfully working in other communities.
“This report was developed in response to a demonstrated need for local, actionable information on homelessness, and we recognize this important community issue deserves the investment to better understand opportunities and barriers,” said Kathleen Shaw, vice president of programs for The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. “This report provides an important input for our city’s system administrators and providers as we anticipate the post-COVID universe for serving our city’s homeless households.”
In the midst of report development, the COVID-19 pandemic created new opportunities to evolve the system of support for homeless households in real time. With access to national resources and relationships such as the partnership with Barbara Poppe, Jacksonville organizations were able to quickly access and implement best practices in response to the pandemic. Jacksonville was one of two cities selected for a pilot program to test all homeless people for COVID-19. More than 675 people were tested, all negative. Fast action and close coordination helped to significantly limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus among homeless households in Jacksonville.
“The process of long-term systemic change is often times careful and deliberate—and sometimes uncomfortable—but our community’s response to COVID-19 shows us we can make real and meaningful progress quickly,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. “Ending homelessness is a complex process that requires collaboration among many systems in our city. With this new report as an important lens, we must continue the conversation with our housing providers, mental health services, local businesses, our government officials and other system administrators to find and explore new ways to further this great progress.”