Help homeless students through holidays

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When you're a teenager and living in a homeless shelter, a lot goes through your mind.

"You don't want to tell your friends," said Sabon

But many of the teenagers we met who were living at the Sulzbacher Center homeless shelter made it clear than homelessness was not living in them.

These homeless students need help, like warm clothes and school supplies. That's where the First Coast News/I'm A Star HELPing Homeless Students initiative comes in.

Sabon, 17, is a a student at Englewood High.

"I'm doing fine, I have a 3.0 GPA," he said.

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JSO: Man surrenders peacefully to SWAT team

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A man is in custody after the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office SWAT responded to the 2200 block of Park Street Friday evening and evacuated the area for the public's safety.

A concerned family member called JSO at about 2:21 p.m. after 35-year-old Joshua Delane Boatman allegedly made suicidal and homicidal threats to his wife, according to JSO Public Information Office Melissa Bujeda.

The SWAT team was then called to the area and a warrant was obtained for Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Boatman then surrendered peacefully and was arrested, Bujeda said.

Boatman was set to be Baker Acted and will then be held on $500,000 bond. Bujeda said JSO thanks people for their their patience during the situation.

New numbers show crime is down in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- New numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show crime is going down in Duval County.

The Uniform Crime Report looked at crime in the first 6 months of 2013, and compared to the first 6 months of 2012.

In Jacksonville, the report showed a 15 percent decrease in murders, and a little more than a 6 percent decrease in aggravated assaults. 

Overall, violent crimes are down 1 percent. The number of rape victims are up, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said that's in part because of a re-classification.

Business owners in Jacksonville are hoping the general downward trend in crime could change the way some think about the city when it comes to crime.

"Every little bit helps," said Pat Middleton. He's been selling houses in Jacksonville for more than 30 years.

Middleton said his clients ask him about being safe in Jacksonville.

City council to vote on backyard chickens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- People in Jacksonville might soon be able to legally keep chickens in their backyard.

City council members are expected to vote Tuesday evening on a proposed pilot program.

A number of people within city limits already keep chickens cooped in their backyard.

And while it is against the city's current zoning code for residential areas, chicken owners tell First Coast News that the code is rarely enforced.

Genora Crain-Orth is a member of Hens in Jax, a pro-backyard chicken group that's been advocating for the pilot program.

She said a lot of times neighbors will look the other way if they know someone with chickens in a backyard coop.

"They'll have a really good understanding in some cases," Crain-Orth said.

But under the proposed program, people would no longer have to keep their chickens a secret.

If approved, 300 Jacksonville families would have to pass an agriculture class and buy a $25 permit.

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First Coast Finds: Annie Lytle School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds of thousands of people drive past her every day without even a notice. Under the busiest freeway interchange in Jacksonville sits one of the city's oldest schools. 

The Annie Lytle School has been closed for decades but a special group of people wants to keep her in the public eye and preserve her dignity.

Toxic site clean up at Bethune Cookman Elementary

JACKSONVILLE,Fla. -- Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary was a stronghold in Jacksonville's black community but for the past 12 years it has sat empty, falling apart, and sitting on a toxic site. 

Finally it is being transformed.

"I can say it," said Rhonda Addo. "At last it has been a long time coming."

Three weeks ago the dump trucks and other heavy equipment rolled onto the campus of the aging school to begin removing the toxic soil.

"The city has made good on the remediation they're cleaning up the land," said Addo.

Like several other locations on the Northwest quadrant of Jacksonville, the Bethune site was a dumping ground for contaminated incinerator ash from the 40s to the 60s.

The clean up is simple the crews are excavating and replacing two feet of dirt from affected areas.

Golf tournament helps fight mental illness

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Rudolph Dunnam said for the first time in his 59 years, he knows what it means to have a life.

"Now I consider myself on the path for living," he said. 

Dunnam described it as the best days of his life.

"I have made a 130-degree turn from where I was mind-wise, physically-wise and mentally-wise," said Dunnam. 

He has finally learned to control his mental illness, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; mental illness that made it difficult for him to even cope with his family.

The big change in his life began when he walked into the building of Northwest Behavioral Health Services.

"If they weren't there I believe I would have probably perished," he said.

Dunnam said now he functions well, he is more sociable, and he's rebuilding those family relationships that were devastated by his mental illness.

"I'm very grateful for them," said Dunnam