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Homeless shelter for pregnant women, children to close in March

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Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013 12:40 am

A Gainesville homeless shelter is closing its doors this March after a local charity announced it wouldn’t renew a one-year agreement to manage the house.

As a result, five women and several children living at the Arbor House, located off Northwest Sixth Street, must find new homes.

The house, which has served as a shelter for homeless pregnant women for 30 years, will be shutting down in the next two months after years of close calls.

Funds have dried up for the struggling organization, which was propped up last year by a donation agreement from the Gainesville Regional Office of Catholic Charities.

The agreement said Catholic Charities would help fund the shelter for one year as it looked for more long-term ways to sustain itself.

Due to cutting costs itself, Catholic Charities decided not to continue management responsibilities after the agreement ends in less than two months, said John Barli, the regional director of Catholic Charities in Gainesville.

He could not say exactly when in March the house would close.

The home provides transitional housing for the mothers, as well as support programs and courses focused on job and interview skills.

“People had time to actually figure out what they were doing,” said Theresa Lowe, director of the City of Gainesville/Alachua County Office on Homelessness.

The house has filled a niche in the Gainesville community, and in terms of long-term housing for women with children, there isn’t much else available, she said.

“Other people who are in the same situation won’t have that as a resource,” she said.

It takes $250,000 to operate the shelter each year. Even though some of that money comes from county grants, donations from local churches and Catholic Charities, the house struggled to break even.

Catholic Charities, which serves five counties in North Central Florida with food and adoption programs, is itself also fueled by grants.

The organization helps pay for the women and children’s medical bills and birthing costs.

“Donations are still down, and the grants aren’t sizeable enough,” Barli said. “There’s just not enough sustainable income.”

Even fundraising can’t put a dent in the day-to-day costs of running the home, Barli said.

Three of the women have infants ages 2 to 4` months, and two women are due for delivery in the next couple of weeks, Barli said.

“The ladies are the No. 1 priority, and obviously the decision was a last-ditch thing,” Barli said. “We’ve made every effort to make this work.”

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