By Tarik Minor – Anchor, I-TEAM reporter
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 1,000 Jacksonville faith leaders from 38 congregations converged Monday for what they called a night of action.
Just a few of the topics discussed at ICARE’s Nehemiah Assembly were civil citations for juvenile offenders, resources for the homeless and how to revitalize Northwest Jacksonville.
The event of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment marked the 20th year that people from different faiths and walks of life addressed citywide concerns in an attempt to hold city leaders accountable.
The purpose of the meeting was to find sustainable solutions to serious community problems.
There was a large turnout at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church. One of the problems brought up was the number of violent crimes and break-ins committed by ex-offenders.
Members of ICARE are calling on the sheriff to make funding a priority for the Jacksonville Reentry Center, which helps offenders get on the right track.
In Northwest Jacksonville, members expressed concern over the lack of grocery stores in the District of Soul, near Myrtle Avenue and Moncrief Road. They are working to develop a community-owned grocery shop.
The group also wants the school district to consider giving more civil citations instead of jail time, for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, by adding language to a bill that’s being called “the preschool to prison pipeline.”
“We still encourage all the things we’ve done to move our citations up (by) 70 percent,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said. “It’s just one piece of that bill that needs to be eliminated out of the legislation.”
Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson attended the meeting. School Superintendent Nickolai Vitti and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry did not.
Many of the people who spoke with News4Jax were disappointed the mayor didn’t attend, because they wanted to speak with him about funding for the Homeless Day Resource Center, downtown.
“Tonight’s meeting was spectacular,” said Tracy Valente, of ICARE. “I love to see how almost 40 churches came together to share a single vision.”