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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Location of one-stop homeless center causes controversy

Gainesville city commissioners came another step closer Monday to establishing a center for homeless services.

In a 5-2 vote, the commission approved a lease that may establish a one-stop center at 3335 N Main Terrace for local homeless people to receive food, showers, counseling and other services.

However, the lease will need to be approved by City Attorney Marion Radson. The City Plan Board will also need to rezone the area to before services can be offered to the homeless.

Commissioners Ed Braddy and Rick Bryant dissented.

Braddy suggested that a flaw in the design of the one-stop is requiring it to be near a Regional Transit System bus stop.

Bryant echoed Braddy's concerns and said it might be better if the center were far away from the city. The city of Madison, Wis., he said, has had positive results by putting its center for homeless services outside the city.

But Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said putting it outside city limits and away from local RTS routes could make it difficult for homeless people to access the center.

Rosemarie Watson, a member of the local Lions Club, a community-service organization, said the one-stop center could have an adverse effect on her organization. Watson was one of several people who spoke out against the center's location because of the negative effect it could have on the neighborhood.

"I fear you're going to put us out of business," Watson told commissioners.

However, former city commission candidate Rob Brinkman said he wanted to address the views some people have about the homeless.

"They don't bite," he said. "They're real people."

While some threatened to sue the city for the placement of the one-stop center, Commissioner Scherwin Henry said the money spent to hire a lawyer might be better spent by putting it into local homeless programs.

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The one-stop center is part of a joint city and county project to end homelessness. Gainesville Regional / Alachua County Empowerment Marketplace, a collection of local homeless service providers that includes St. Francis House and the Salvation Army, will offer services at the proposed center.

The center, which includes two warehouse buildings, is expected to open May 1. However, it may open earlier if rezoning is completed before then.

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