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City named fifth meanest to homeless

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Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:00 am

Gainesville is the fifth meanest city in the nation toward the homeless for the second time in a row, according to a recent report.

Los Angeles ranked No. 1 in the report released Tuesday by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The list was last compiled in 2004.

Criteria for the list included the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city and the city's history of criminalization measures, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless' Web site.

"We've been tracking what has been going on in Gainesville for years," said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Gainesville was cited as having insensitive panhandling and public spaces laws, limiting the amount of food a religious group can give the homeless and forcing people off of campsites without providing them with an alternative place to go, Stoops said, referring to the 2007 and 2009 Tent City evictions.

"They [the Gainesville Police Department] have sweeps to cut you off from the food in hopes that you move along to another city or go live in the woods like stray animals," Stoops said. "Hopefully this rank will start some new debate and bring people together and figure out what can be done."

Jayne Moraski, director of the Office on Homelessness for Gainesville and Alachua County, agrees.

"It is important to use this as an opportunity to remind ourselves of the commitment we made to end homelessness," she said.

According to Moraski, the city is waiting to receive federal money from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program.

After funding is secured, money will be used to provide case management services for homeless individuals and make it easier for them to access services they need, such as health services and counseling, Moraski said.

The list:

1. Los Angeles, CA

2. St. Petersburg, FL

3. Orlando, FL

4. Atlanta, GA

5. Gainesville, FL

6. Kalamazoo, MI

7. San Francisco, CA

8. Honolulu, HI

9. Bradenton, FL

10. Berkeley, CA

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