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Friday, September 29, 2023

City allocates ,25,000 for homeless shelters this winter

With the chill of winter approaching, the homeless of Gainesville may be left out in the cold, but help is on the way.

The Gainesville City Commission set aside ,25,000 to provide supplemental shelter for people in need this winter.

One joint proposal was received and will be awarded to St. Francis House and the Alachua County Housing Authority, said Jim Hencin, manager of the Block Grant Division with the city of Gainesville.

St. Francis House is one of about 20 local agencies that offer bed space to those homeless, Hencin said. At normal capacity, St. Francis House maintains 35 beds, but with the additional winter funding, the shelter will set up 24 additional cots when the temperature drops to 45 degrees or below, he said.

The Alachua County Housing Authority will also provide vouchers to the elderly and to people with health problems for a one-night stay at a local motel or hotel to be paired up in double occupancy rooms at the cost of ,40 a night, he said.

Hencin said spots are offered on a nightly basis, and people can go back each night.

St. Francis will provide a meal in the evening and another one in the morning, and those staying in motels can receive these meals at the shelter, as well.

The supplemental plan is a step in the right direction, but it's not adequate to offer assistance to everyone in need, said Jon DeCarmine, executive director of Gainesville/Alachua County Office on Homelessness.

The additional beds may hold an extra 50 people, but leave about 300 people still without shelter, he said.

Shelters with limited space don't make room for pets and extra belongings, he said, so leaving things behind to be stolen or ruined in the weather is not a choice every person is willing to make.

The 45-degree requirement also is not ideal when 46-degree rainy weather can be just as threatening, he said.

"Access to shelter is a right, not a privilege to afford one group over another," DeCarmine said.

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Local churches can participate by allowing groups of 20 to stay for up to two weeks.

DeCarmine said his office has called about 315 churches for help but has gotten little response.

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