Special Gues Ms. Dawn Gilman, Changing Homelessnes
Pastor & Attorney A.W. “Al”, Housing for the Homeless Campaign
A local business owner is growing concerned that a homeless encampment near his car dealership is becoming more dangerous for the community and the individuals living in the stretch of woods.
Steve Tillman, owner of Tillman Auto on Beach Boulevard, estimates there are fewer than ten individuals who frequent the wooded area next to the dealership. Tillman said there’s been a homeless presence ever since he bought the lot back in 2006. He says the homeless have always resided here.
“You know they’d come down here and have a beer or whatever and you’d leave them alone, but you know this has shown up and vandalism. The customers are afraid to come out after dark,” said Tillman.
What showed up were air duster cans. And there are hundreds of them just behind the tree line.
“And this is only after a few months because I come out here and clean it up,” said Tillman.
Tillman estimates he’s spending about $10,000 a year on security equipment and replacing stolen or vandalized items.
He’s growing increasingly concerned.
A video captured by one of the employees at Tillman Auto shows a man groaning and convulsing in the patch of woods.
In December of 2020, the body of a woman was found across the street and just last month we were on scene as police removed another body found in the woods.
Tillman believes they’re all symptoms of a growing substance abuse problem, but he’s refrained from getting the police involved.
“They’ve got bigger fish to fry. I think this is a community issue,” said Tillman.
Dawn Gilman with Changing Homelessness told us unfortunately there’s no short-term solution.
“Working with them and helping them get off the street is usually a multi-agency longer-term process,” said Gilman.
Tillman is asking the community to stop giving the homeless on the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Southside Boulevard cash, hoping it will reduce substance abuse.
“If you want to do the City of Jacksonville a favor, donate to those institutions that can serve these homeless people,” said Tillman.
Changing Homelessness told us it’s really up to each individual’s preference on whether they want to give cash to homeless individuals.