PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — As the deadline approaches for the homeless to leave Hollice T. Williams Park, Pensacola officials are confident those living in tents will have a new place to stay by Monday, Jan. 31.
“We think we have a place for everyone,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.
The City of Pensacola has worked with homeless advocates and allocated more than $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding for new places for the homeless to stay.
“We’ve already connected 75 individuals to shelter,” Robinson said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things we’ve been able to accomplish over the last year.”
Earlier this month, Robinson announced the homeless living at Hollice T. Williams park, located under the Interstate 110 overpass near downtown Pensacola, would be required to leave by Jan. 31.
More than 100 homeless individuals have lived there illegally for several months.
But the city has plans for the park, including building a new skate park, and the land is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The city, working with its homeless task force, has plans for new shelters and camps.
One option is an outdoor area near the Pathway for Change building off Blount Street. Crews were working to clean up the area Wednesday.
A fenced-in area off “S” Street will also provide an outdoor space for homeless to set up tents.
“They are offered these specific choices as to where they might go and then we start moving them in,” said Vinnie Whibbs, a member of the homeless task force and executive director of Re-entry Alliance Pensacola.
“It’s important that we treat this as not relocating from one camp site to another camp site. Part of what needs to be done as you transition is to provide those services. Those social services that will assist these people. Get jobs, receive whatever entitlements they would otherwise be expecting to receive, so they make that progression into permanent housing.”
Indoor shelters like one at 2200 N. Palafox Street are slated to open by mid-March. The Waterfront Rescue Mission is also providing shelter. Many of the homeless have already signed up for the new spots in Pensacola.
Emergency motel vouchers are available for those in desperate need.
Homeless advocates say clearing the homeless camp at Hollice T. Williams Park and getting the homeless resources they need will do great things for Pensacola.
“We may not be able to completely eliminate homelessness but certainly can make a substantial reduction,” Whibbs said.
The homeless are required to leave the park by 5 p.m. on Monday.