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COVID-19 Response

Table of Contents: 

COVID-19 Shelter Taskforce

In response to COVID-19, members of the Mayor’s Downtown Homelessness Taskforce were activated to launch the Shelter COVID-19 Taskforce. The Shelter Taskforce designed and implemented the COVID-19 response model for shelters in coordination and with approval from all local hospital representatives.  This protocol is structured to be used in response to future viral crises and can be replicated in any community. The protocol has been shared on national COVID-19 crisis response calls and webinars as well as on the #1 Health Podcast on Apple, Epidemic. Click here to view the COVID-19 Shelter Protocol and additional resources.

As a part of the COVID-19 shelter protocol, private hotel rooms and meals were provided for individuals experiencing homelessness who were: experiencing symptoms, tested positive, medically vulnerable, and patients who had been discharged by a hospital and were positive. To assist with social distancing, the taskforce established a second ‘Pop-Up’ Urban Rest Stop temporarily at Salvation Army to enable individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness to have a safe place during the day.

Through a partnership with the national nonprofit Community Solutions, Jacksonville was chosen by Quest Diagnostics as one of two cities in the country to test people experiencing homelessness. In May 2020, Sulzbacher coordinated with UF Health to administer the tests at every shelter--100% of these individuals tested negative for COVID-19. In June 2020, Changing Homelessness and the Mayor's Taskforce on Homelessness won the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida's 2020 Local Focus. Lasting Impact.™ Collective Power award for their collaborative efforts to screen nearly 700 homeless Jacksonville residents for COVID-19. Click here to learn more about the award.

This shelter taskforce is now being led by Changing Homelessness. The Taskforce is still convening regular virtual meetings for homeless shelters in response to COVID-19.  Click here to visit the Changing Homelessness website. 

Pathway to Home
In February 2021, the COVID-19 Shelter Taskforce and the City of Jacksonville announced the launch of an initiative that expands resources for people experiencing homelessness. The Pathway to Home Program — a collaboration between the City of Jacksonville, Sulzbacher, Mental Health Resource Center, Changing Homelessness, additional area homeless providers, Downtown Vision, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — was created to serve as a bridge to services for people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This program utilizes a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach which includes co-responder teams, coordinated entry and housing case managers.

The Pathway to Home Program provided individuals living in unsheltered areas with a local extended-stay hotel room and food assistance for 30 days. During this period, case managers worked with each participant to secure permanent housing through Rapid Re-Rehousing. Rapid Rehousing (RRH) is an intervention designed to quickly move families and individuals out of homelessness and into permanent housing. The RRH program is short-term and provides the following services: Case Management, Housing Location Assistance, and Temporary Rental Assistance.

Temporary Bridge Shelter

The Temporary Bridge Shelter was a low-barrier shelter set up to serve as a bridge to resources and a temporary living space for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a generous donation of an empty building from local property owners, a total of 165 people living on Jacksonville’s streets chose to enroll in the Temporary Bridge Shelter, and homeless service providers made a commitment to ensure each client had an exit destination within 30 days. At the end of the month, 104 clients went from living on the street to living in emergency shelter or transitional housing, permanent housing, or a boarding/rooming house.

The wrap-around approach included coordinated intake, case management, 1-on-1 conversations, connections to employment, and multiple on-site resource fairs — but by far, the success of this 30-day project can be attributed to the collaboration between City Rescue Mission, Changing Homelessness, the City of Jacksonville, Mission House, Sulzbacher, Trinity Rescue Mission and several other agencies. Shelter staff from all the participating agencies were instrumental in providing a comprehensive, hands-on involvement in assisting clients develop and implement exit plans.

COVID-19 Food Delivery Taskforce

In response to COVID-19 and the increased demand for food resources to be distributed in a safe manner, Mayor Curry launched the COVID-19 Food Delivery Taskforce to identify food access and distribution gaps and to create innovative ways to distribute food resources. The taskforce developed new partnerships, created a food inventory based on known resources as well as developed a member survey to evaluate system gaps and resources. To maximize the system alignment created in response to COVID-19, the taskforce agreed to formalize their efforts to expand the network of food and nutrition partners to become the One City – One Table Partnership.

To maximize the system alignment created in response to COVID-19, the taskforce formalized their efforts and expanded the network of food and nutrition partners to become the One City – One Table Partnership. In 2021, the COVID-19 Food Delivery Taskforce formally transitioned into the One City - One Table Partnership under the new leadership of the University of North Florida (UNF).

Led by the UNF Center for Nutrition & Food Security (CNFS), the One City One Table Partnership is a community initiative with a goal to create a customer-centric community framework, with a centralized system, that will connect Jacksonville residents to food resources while maximizing service capacity and delivery. Click here to visit the University of North Florida's website to learn more about the One City - One Table Partnership.

COVID-19 Eviction/Foreclosure focused Roundtable

In response to COVID-19, members of the COJ/HUD/Philanthropic Partnership Roundtable were activated to launch the Eviction and Foreclosure focused Roundtable.  The purpose of the roundtable was to develop a strategic approach for addressing evictions and foreclosures caused by COVID-19. The members of the Roundtable represented multiple sectors and worked collaboratively to coordinate current and future resources. As an outcome of this roundtable, the City of Jacksonville developed the Residential & Commercial Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program in partnership with the Jacksonville Bar Association.