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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Officials, advocates differ on Tent City relocation

City officials and homeless advocates continue to debate whether relocating the homeless residents of Tent City has been a successful venture.

The relocation of the public lands of Tent City, a homeless encampment off South Main Street, began Wednesday.

Gainesville Police Department posted trespass notices on the public land portions of the encampment.

"The operation went very, very smoothly," city spokesman Bob Woods said.

"When we got there on the 12th most of these folks who had been there in the area had left on their own initiative," Woods said.

Executive Director for the City of Gainesville / Alachua County Office on Homelessness Jon DeCarmine said about 20 city staff members and police were involved with relocations.

He said the homeless are on private property, deeper in the woods or scattered throughout Gainesville.

Woods said people claiming to live on the public lands of Tent City approached city officials.

DeCarmine said there were debates over the boundaries of public land.

"The only people who came to attempt to get a voucher were told they were ineligible to receive them," he said.

But Woods said those individuals were unable to verify that they were living on Tent City's public property.

Woods said only one trespass voucher was issued Wednesday. The person who received the trespass voucher declined to take the housing voucher.

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The voucher could be used for shelter at St. Francis House or The Salvation Army, he said.

DeCarmine said the city is treating homelessness like a criminal issue.

"We could not have imagined the mess they created," DeCarmine said. "I'm still kind of processing it."

One of the city commissioners that approved the relocation, Ed Braddy, said homeless advocates have distorted the intent of relocation.

The City Commission voted 5-to-1 in August to relocate Tent City residents because of safety and health issues.

There have been instances of sexual assault and abuse in Tent City, he said. The city allocated about ,62,000 for additional resources used by homeless service centers to receive Tent City residents.

"We're helping channel the homeless to those services that they desperately need," Braddy said.

DeCarmine said there has been a breakdown between the city and the advocacy community.

"I am paid by the city and the county to oversee all things related to homelessness," DeCarmine said. "I was threatened with arrest twice."

Woods said he was unaware of any arrest threats.

"They were allowed on Tent City property with escorts," he said.

Woods said Gainesville police will continue to canvass the area for about two weeks. After two weeks, a progress evaluation will take place.

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