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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Nelson visits Gainesville to meet with officials

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson met with local Gainesville officials Wednesday to discuss community issues such as homelessness and global warming.

The meeting was a part of his efforts to stay connected with constituents during Congress' recess in August.

Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and UF President Bernie Machen were among those attending the meeting, which took place over a catered lunch of chicken, rice, salad and green beans.

Nelson, who said it was the only chance he would have to eat, dug right into his food and the issues at hand.

He commended the city of Gainesville and Alachua County for their efforts to reduce the amount of carbon emissions through several citywide and countywide programs that have been implemented.

"It's taken a long time for people to get sensitized to this, and with the help of the university, you're really doing something about it," Nelson said.

He said he hopes some of Gainesville's surrounding cities and counties will start to do the same thing by switching to alternative fuels from fossil fuels or by adopting a similar conservation program.

"The question is, 'Are we going to do what we need to do to stop the man-made depleting of the air?'" he said.

"Anybody who says that this is fiction is living in a fantasy world," Nelson said.

Nelson also discussed the local homeless population.

Hanrahan outlined the results of a survey of the homeless community that found only eight individuals were actual Veterans of Foreign Wars. "I think probably, in honesty, there are a lot of people who say they are veterans who are not because it creates a sympathetic picture," she said

She said many of the local homeless don?t qualify for assistance programs because for many reasons, including criminal histories.

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Jim Lynch, the new director of the Veteran Affairs Medical Center, said the only job of the VA center is to take care of veterans. When the center runs across people who don?t qualify for VA benefits, he said, it refers them to alternative community resources.

Hanrahan said a variety of organizations are working with the homeless service providers to try to get people into better living situations.

"For a U.S. senator to take an interest in a truly localized issue like that I think shows not only a great deal of leadership but also human compassion and caring," Hanrahan said.

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