Zachery Blige sits on a bench in Hemming Plaza enjoying the buzz One Spark has brought to downtown Jacksonville. Beside him there’s a group of men playing cards at a picnic table, across from him there’s a booth set up showcasing one of One Spark’s 600-plus creator projects.


He’s not alone; four or five other men are sitting with him taking in all that the festivities have to offer. The public might be quick to assume that these Hemming Plaza regulars are homeless, but a bluntly asked question provides a different, vague and multi-part answer.

“No, no, we’re not homeless,” says one of the men adamantly, while another nods his head yes to the question.

Blige, 55, eventually explains that he has been homeless on and off for a year or two.

“I’ve got friends down here,” Blige says. “I come out here to see them.”

He’s not the only one who uses Hemming Plaza for social purposes. According to Blige, about half of the regulars in Hemming Plaza are, contrary to popular belief, not homeless.

Those people who are homeless, however, seem to be enjoying One Spark just as much as the energetic crowds that the event brought in.

“It gives us something to do,” said Keith Stuart, 62, who is homeless and enjoying the excitement stirring downtown.

“We can interact with other people, meet great folks and nice people.”

Richard Cleveland, 56, another homeless man in downtown Jacksonville, agrees that One Spark has been beneficial for the homeless population.

“Listening to the speakers is nice and inspiring and helps motivate us,” he said.

While excited about One Spark, others find certain aspects of it to be inconvenient.

Charles Narramore, a homeless man seated in Hamming Plaza, said police round-ups and raids on homeless camps happen more frequently in the days before One Spark.

But not everyone has experienced this police relocation.

“I was expecting that [relocation],” said Stuart, “but the po-po are nice.”

Sgt. Patricia Grant of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said that there haven’t been any serious problems with the regulars at Hemming Plaza.

“They’re just like regular citizens,” Grant said. “If they don’t start causing problems, then they can stay and enjoy the festivities.”