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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Students, local leaders meet to discuss city issues

Students were given the chance to question city leaders Wednesday, and the resounding concern was homelessness.

The Civic Engagement panel discussion, offered by UF Off Campus Life, invited Gainesville Police Department, city and Student Government officials to inform students about community involvement.

The main issue that concerned students during the question-and-answer session of the lunch was panhandling and the evacuation process of Tent City, a homeless encampment near South Main Street.

Jeanna Mastrodicasa, city commissioner and UF assistant vice president of student affairs, said she was pleased by student insight.

"These aren't fluff issues," Mastrodicasa said. "They're real issues."

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said there are about 950 homeless people and about 300 beds for the homeless.

She said the entire community needs to work toward eliminating homelessness.

"We have to say, this is our problem, and we have to address it," Hanrahan said.

The meeting is a part of a monthly lunch series.

Director of Off Campus Life Nora Kilroy said the meetings are open to all students, not just those who live off campus.

Hanrahan said about 66,000 UF and SFCC students contribute to Gainesville's estimated 122,000 people.

"We really benefit from the energy and the excitement," she said.

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GPD Cpl. Jaime Kurnick said students should join a crime watch program or do ride-alongs with police.

"Students forget that they're actually a part of our community," Kurnick said.

SG officials urged students to join city advisory boards and committees.

Mastrodicasa said getting involved with local government and community service helps students explore Gainesville.

"A lot of times students come to the University of Florida, and they don't see anything beyond Archer Road and The Oaks Mall," she said.

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