(L to R) Pastor Phillip Baber, Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, Nancy Ricker, Arlington Congregational Church, Pastor James Wiggins, St. Paul Lutheran Church, discussed Nehemiah Assembly

March 29, 2017. WJCT.

The Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment held its annual Nehemiah Assembly at the Abyssinia Baptist Church, where more than 1,500 Jacksonville residents addressed the need to pursue social justice concerns Monday.

Pastor James Wiggins from St. Paul Lutheran Church, Nancy Ricker from Arlington Congregational Church, and Pastor Phillip Baber from Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, discussed the event Wednesday on First Coast Connect.

ICARE is an organization representing more than 30,000 Duval County residents, addressing neighborhood and citywide concerns by holding city leaders accountable in implementing sustainable solutions to serious community problems.

Public officials, including Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson, fielded questions from faith leaders and residents about reopening a downtown day resource center for the homeless, how to fund an ex-offender re-entry center, and the use of civil citations for minors who get in trouble with the law, with a neighborhood accountability board as an alternative for juvenile detention.

But Mayor Lenny Curry was not in attendance.

“We were disappointed that our mayor was not with us, but at the same time we were delighted to see the citizens show up in great numbers to say we are all standing together,” Wiggins said.

Baber said his team is disappointed at the failure of Curry to move forward with a homeless day center, after agreeing to it if the pension plan were to pass in August last year.

“There is a desperate need for people to have access to daytime services and shelters,” he said. “I think the plight and the suffering of the homeless, especially in downtown …  falls squarely on the shoulders of the mayor.”

Baber said the city has a budget of more than a billion dollars. “It is not a lack of funds, it is a lack of political will and political courage and political leadership,” he said.

The event also included the discussion of the use of civil citations for minors, Bill 196, which makes 12 nonviolent misdemeanors mandatory for the issues of civil citations statewide, Ricker said.

“It’s not fair for youth in Duval County to go to St. Johns County and get an arrest when you can get a civil citation here,” she said.

Ricker said there is a 90 percent success rate a young person will not reoffend through the tools and counseling they get in a neighborhood accountability board, a restorative justice program the ICARE Youth Crime Committee is working with city’s public officials on.

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