New youth center hopes to curb homeless youth population

The nonprofit organization Jasmyn broke ground on the new Youth Safety Net Resource Center Monday morning in Downtown Jacksonville. It is expected to serve hundreds of homeless youth in Duval County.

“If you’ve been pushed out by your family or you’re bouncing around, having a place where people care about you, where they say, 'Come on in, we're here to help,' does give a sense of hope,” Jasmyn CEO Cindy Watson said.

The project began when two local retired doctors bought and donated the building along Chelsea Street to Jasmyn in 2016. Since then, the organization has had a goal to raise $150,000 to renovate the building as a youth center.

Watson said they still have about $11,000 to raise, but they will start construction on the building Tuesday.

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“Our partners at Changing Homelessness do annual counts in the streets and around the community to identify the number of people currently homeless,” Watson said. “So when they did their August count this year, they saw a 145% increase in youth experiencing homelessness over the county in August 2017.”

Action News Jax told you in September 15,000 students in the Duval County Public School System were listed as homeless, which is the highest number in Northeast Florida.

The center will not be a shelter for homeless youth, but a community resource center to gain access to resources that will help them transition out of homelessness.

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“It’s an extensive project but when we’re done we’ll have showers, we’ll have laundry facilities, we’ll have a warming facility, we’ll have a nice reception for young people, and a common space,” Watson said. “We’ll also have our case managers here, who will provide the outreach and services for young people.”

While they are continuing to raise funds for renovations, Jasmyn Property Board Chair Charles Garrison said they will continue to need community support to keep the center’s operations running.

“There will be grants from case management and the operations for some part of it,” Garrison said. “But what it really comes down to is, we are a part of the community and what it really comes down to is, we also need the community to help back.”

Garrison said the youth center is a nine-month project, and is expected be completed by the end of September 2019.