While city officials and civic leaders are busy discussing ways to gussie up downtown’s face, the tramp camp in the heart of downtown continues to grow.
Well-intended people decided weeks ago to help the homeless people in the camp by moving them into hotels.
Once homeless people learned of the plan, the population of the camp began to grow, a result that was entirely predictable.
The head of a local service organization said a tent encampment at Jefferson and Beaver streets has grown since the city and Sulzbacher Center relocated 50 people from the site Feb. 5 to hotels as part of a rapid rehousing program.
The Daily Record quoted her as saying, “We are seeing folks relocate from throughout Northeast Florida who are experiencing homelessness to that location because they think that will prioritize them for housing.”
She also said more “affordable” housing is needed.
People who are homeless generally are homeless because they don’t have jobs. Therefore, more jobs are needed rather than affordable housing, which always means housing other people pay for, at least partially. (Some likely are without a job because the government put them out of work.)
But giving people a house doesn’t accomplish much if they remain unemployed and cannot furnish or maintain the house.
Large cities that have provided unemployed transients free food, housing and other services have experienced growing numbers of unemployed transients who no longer are transient.
That’s fine if that is what their citizens want but most Jacksonville residents probably do not want to see the city become a destination for them in their constant travel.
Those busy dreaming of ways to make the downtown area more inviting to local residents also would find their efforts thwarted.
They might more profitably spend their time by determining whether such efforts are warranted.
Jacksonville has for decades tried to make downtown more attractive. Although the face of the city has been drastically altered, at considerable cost, there is little reason for people to go downtown.
It is a business and government center. Except for the Florida and Ritz theaters and a few restaurants, there is little that would cause suburbanites to make the trip downtown.
Meanwhile, at no cost to the taxpayers, they flock to an area like St. Johns Town Center, planned and built by the private sector.
Promoting housing would boost activity downtown. Planned housing development is slowly materializing. But transit and police protection must be available.
In short, market forces likely would help downtown revive more than endless government planning and wasteful spending on such disasters as the broken rock intersections downtown.
Enticing bums to the heart of town is counter-productive.