The City of Jacksonville has no place to send the city’s homeless when the winter months set in. Jacksonville Police Chaplain and homeless advocate Alan Bradish informed the Jacksonville City Council on Monday night that the city’s homeless population currently has no overnight shelter open to them inside the city’s limits. Bradish also says that the city is expecting a 40% increase in the homeless population this winter.
Bradish says there are few easy alternatives for those who find themselves on the streets currently: “If a homeless person wants to relocate from this area, the Jacksonville Police Department has a program that I administrate called Homeward Bound. Homeward Bound can look to find shelter for them elsewhere other than Jacksonville and try to get them there. We also can help transport them. The Jacksonville Salvation Army has some funds where they can help them for a night, but that is like putting a band-aid on a gushing sore. The other alternative, of course, would be to apply for housing, which may take numerous days; or they can sleep in their car, sleep in a tent, sleep out in the cold; or stay up all night at one of the local area all night places like Quik Stop or something like that. There is no good plan in place for long-term homelessness.”
Bradish told the council that New Directions has closed their doors and will not reopen until COVID-19 restrictions move into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Bradish hopes that New Directions would reconsider their options. In the meantime, he says he is willing to work with the city to possibly rezone a site in the downtown area ahead of the winter cold to give the homeless an emergency shelter: “It would be a temporary, overnight, emergency shelter where those who would be in the area and are homeless would be able to go of an evening. They would check in. They would be assigned a sleeping area, most likely a cot, and then, in the morning leave that facility and be directed toward to one of the about 28 different entities or agencies in a walking distance from the downtown area where they can go and do something productive to improve their situation so they wouldn’t have to be homeless or even utilize the shelter. Then, if they did find themselves homeless that next night, they could come back and have a place to stay so that they are warm, dry, and safe. Those are the 3 main things we are trying to accomplish.”
Bradish hopes that the city, if no other alternative is found, will rezone a property at 68 Central Park Plaza through an amendment to the downtown zoning ordinance to allow for an emergency residential clause for the shelter during the winter. Currently, the downtown area is zoned as a B-2 Business District. With B-2 zoning, no residential areas are allowed on the ground floor of buildings located in the downtown area. With the amended clause, Bradish hopes it would allow the the Central Park Plaza address to have a temporary residential zoning for the emergency purposes of a shelter only.
Bradish says that Community Hope is the around the corner from the location and would possibly be a partner to help administer the facility, and it wouldn’t fall on the city to help pay for it. Bradish says that the homeless population would continue to be vetted through the city’s police department prior to going to the shelter for the night. He says that any persons with warrants or labeled as sex offenders would not be allowed to be at the shelter, but rather be taken to the county jail or had other arrangements made.
Bradish says he is also hoping to hear any ideas from the local community prior to a final decision being made. You can contact Bradish at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 217-479-4630 xt. 3 if you would like to volunteer for the project or have further ideas. Bradish says the last thing he wants to happen is for someone to die on the streets in Jacksonville because they could not find a warm place to sleep this winter.