Pensacola city council postpones approval of $2.6 million to reduce homelessness

Escambia County

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — After a six-hour meeting Wednesday night, the Pensacola city council decided to postpone a vote to approve federal funding to reduce homelessness.

The city says the long-term goal is to help these people get jobs and permanent housing but in the short term, they’re hoping to clear out a homeless camp under Interstate 110 that now has more than 100 men and women living in tents.

The nearly $2.6 million in funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act. It will go to several local non-profit organizations.

The proposals include nine tiny homes and several campsites that will serve as temporary transitional housing. The campsites idea has caused some concern from residents and councilmembers because one would be located close to Pensacola High School. The other campsite would be a five-acre lot on Houston Avenue but many are upset that it’s too close to a neighborhood.

There are also organizations asking for money to help with mental health services and mentorship for the homeless. More than half a dozen organization leaders spoke to the council Wednesday night about how they would spend the money.

“There’s something wrong about the way we do things if we can’t say we need to have a place for them,” said Vince Whibbs, executive director of ReEntry Alliance Pensacola, Inc. “I’m going to suggest to you this is a place where we can start.”

“Basically we want to take our show on the road,” said Terri Merrick, founder of Pensacola Dream Center. “So we’re going to be going and asking to speak to everyone in the city trying to get more people to step up and be coaches and mentors for these people.”

Councilwoman Sherri Myers proposed postponing the vote and it passed 5-2. Most council members felt they were not ready to approve the funding. Myers said she wants to get some crime statistics first from the Pensacola Police Department.

The city will also do a risk assessment on “There Is Hope” to determine if that organization should get some funding.

The city has not announced a date for the vote.

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