Homeless advocates hope to offer I-110 homeless camp solution by Thanksgiving

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Chad Forester lives under the Interstate 110 overpass off Hayne Street near downtown Pensacola. He’s built a hut and lived there for three months.

“We’re normal people just like you,” Forester said. “Just kind of mistakes have happened or misfortune has happened. We’re kind of comfortable here. We didn’t ask to leave.”

But the City of Pensacola needs the growing homeless population to leave the city park, according to officials, and homeless advocates are working on solutions to get them moved by Thanksgiving.

ReEntry Alliance Pensacola, or REAP, is a part of the Homeless Reduction Task Force. It has identified three new areas, off S Street, Palafox and Mobile Highway in Pensacola, to set up safer encampments that could offer a solution to the growing homeless population under the I-110 overpass.

“There’s a basic desire — hope — that you can do more for those individuals and move them from living in tents under an interstate to something that is much more permanent,” said REAP executive director Vinnie Whibbs. “To make it more attractive to the neighborhood, you got to have screening and fencing and some kind of security gating.”

These encampments, if approved by the city council, would offer social services, showers and bathrooms to the homeless.

This plan is one of several proposals the Pensacola city council will decide on.

Nonprofit organizations are hoping to get part of $3 million in federal funding expected to be used to fight homeless in the city.

“It’s a chance to make a sea change difference in our area,” Whibbs said.

A decision is expected to be made in November.

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