The need to shelter Jacksonville’s homeless population took a sudden shift toward conclusion thanks to a late night drive through town.
Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard announced today plans are in the works for a new warming shelter in the city’s northeast section, which he says he is confident will be approved by the city council during their regular meeting Monday night.
Plans are currently underway to secure a lease of the former America Ambulance Company Building at the corner of North Main and Walnut Streets.
The announcement made for a quick turn around following the denial of a zoning change request by the City Plans Commission on Wednesday which would have allowed the the shelter to occupy the Times Theater Building, most formally the Krush Time fitness center located on East State Street.
Ezard says although the weather this week has helped offset the critical need of a warming shelter, he and other city officials knew going into the meeting that the temperatures will soon drop and a place to shelter from the cold will be needed as soon as possible.
“That was the mindset going in, I didn’t attend the meeting in person but I listened to to it remotely. Afterward I immediately jumped off the couch, got in the car and started driving and writing down potential locations for the center. We met early Thursday morning and collectively shared our ideas and we felt this location was the one to pursue.
We were very happy that the land owner was very receptive to what we wanted to do. We toured the facility and the inspection team went in and looked at some things and Allen Braddish looked at some things and, we all feel that this is very appropriate and we are ready to move and ready to get this opened for folks that need some help in these trying times.”
Ezard says the new proposed location already meets zoning requirements, meaning one less hurdle for the shelter.
“That was a big part of it, you know we could have gone through some action with the council to overturn some things and or take it back to the zoning board of appeals but, I certainly respect those members and their decision, you know it is what it is.
We just said to ourselves, hey let’s try to get something in the works, and the zoning for this space was right, so now we don’t have to clear that hurdle. The last twenty four hours we have been working on a lease agreement with the landowner and they have been great to work with, and we are going to keep moving forward.”
Ezard says although a lease agreement had not yet been finalized, plans are to secure the property for use as a warming shelter as soon as possible and lasting through the end of March.
He says the diligent efforts put forth by Superintendent of Inspections Brian Nyberg, ESDA Director Phil McCarty, and most especially Jacksonville Police Chaplain Allan Braddish, have hopefully helped to secure a safe place for Jacksonville’s homeless to find shelter this winter.
Ezard says the city council has been unanimously behind finding a new location, and he anticipates the members will agree this one checks all the boxes.
The Jacksonville City Council will meet in regular session this upcoming Monday beginning at 7:00 pm.