Investigates: Sulzbacher Homeless Center may move to formerly contaminated site

Sulzbacher confirms possible move, but doesn’t say where

JACKSONVILLE, FLa. — Action News Jax Ben Becker has learned the Sulzbacher Homeless Center in downtown Jacksonville is exploring moving and a member of the city council says they believe it’s going to a formerly contaminated site in their district.

The possible location is the former Fairfax Street Wood Treaters plant which was an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site on the Northside. It was polluted for decades before it was finally cleaned up in 2020.

“We have enough issues now,” says Iris Hinton who lives in the neighborhood and helped spearhead the effort to clean it up.

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The possible site is a 12-acre property in a dense residential area, adjacent to two elementary schools, a daycare center, and several homes.

“We can’t continue to be told in the community what’s going to be there,” says Councilman Garrett Dennis who represents District 9. According to the Sulzbacher’s most recent available annual report from 2018-2019, there were 64,000 nights of emergency housing for 734 men, woman and children. Dennis says he understands that legislation is in the works and the city wants Sulzbacher to move to help downtown development.

“If residents around there tell me they don’t want it, I’m going to fight like hell to make sure it doesn’t come to that area.”

Action News Jax first told you in February about a tent city that popped up in downtown, exposing a growing homeless problem in the urban core.

As for Hinton, she says her area needs its own urban renewal.

“They don’t have a grocery store nothing,” says Hinton. “Why are they pushing other people’s issues into our neighborhood, why do we have to continue that.”

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A spokesperson for Sulzbacher tells Becker the homeless shelter has had moving discussions with the city for three years because of flooding issues and will have an announcement when it secures the property. When Becker pressed to find out if the site is the Fairfax Street location, he was told no comment.

Becker reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out what plans there are for the Wood Treaters site, but never received a response.