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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Report blasts Gainesville for restricting meals provided to homeless

Gainesville was added to a list of 22 cities that restrict providing meals to the homeless in a November homeless advocacy report.

In a conference call Thursday morning, the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty discussed the increase of cities punishing those who feed homeless people.

Gainesville city ordinances make sharing food in front of City Hall illegal and require food distribution centers for the homeless to obtain a permit, the report stated.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the coalition, said it named Gainesville the fifth-meanest city in the country toward the homeless in 2004.

"Gainesville is kind of self-nominating themselves to be on the mean city list," he said.

Concerns were also raised because the future Gainesville one-stop homeless center will be located 33 blocks north of the downtown area, the report stated.

City spokesman Bob Woods said the City Hall ordinance was created in 2003 by the city manager.

The city has allowed for some flexibility, Woods said.

However, Stoops said the homeless cannot get three hot meals seven days a week in Gainesville.

"I think there's an effort in Gainesville and elsewhere to drive the visible homeless out from the downtown area," Stoops said.

Woods said the center, which would be located on 3335 N. Main Terrace, would provide various services in addition to meals.

"We think we can do better, and the citizens in our community deserve better," Woods said.

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