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Saturday, April 13, 2024

With the recent shuffling of the proposed one-stop homeless service center's location, it is clear that many Gainesville residents will do much to decry the homeless problem, but very little to help move toward a solution - especially if that solution happens to be in their own backyards.

City commissioners are no exception.

When the city announced the one-stop homeless service center "Project GRACE" as part of the official City of Gainesville-Alachua County 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, it seemed like a major step toward dealing with the homeless issue.

But unfortunately, it stalled there.

When East Gainesville residents were up in arms at the originally proposed Waldo Road location, the commission relented in a 5-2 vote. Now the North Main Terrace site is the only option after city commissioners abandoned the other 125 alternatives, citing their possible neighborhood impacts.

It is abundantly clear that many fear having homeless people anywhere near their home addresses.

And yet this new location, directly west of North Main Street, seemed to offer a reasonable compromise - except for one commissioner.

And so Ed Braddy decided to take his discontent one step further than his lone dissenting vote and made a request for records on the city's past crimes that involved the homeless - under the guise of acting on the behalf of concerned constituents.

He plans to publish these reports online.

So, what are these "shocking" statistics?

There were 3,832 crimes in Gainesville involving homeless people - as suspects, victims or witnesses - between January 2004 and February 2008.

That's less than 1,000 a year.

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If that still seems alarming, consider that there were 6,872 total arrests made in Gainesville in 2004 alone.

We understand that thousands of crimes would be a concern to any citizen. But at the same time, we seriously question Braddy's motives.

Why is it that all crimes involving the homeless are included and not just those where the homeless are offenders?

If Braddy wants to highlight the likelihood of crime in a particular area, why include city-wide statistics over a long period of time?

It seems that the commissioner is trying to tie the number of homeless people to crime rates within the city to rile up an already concerned citizenry. By capitalizing on the fear that already deters many from offering any assistance to the homeless, Braddy has not taken the high road.

By not taking steps to offer innovative solutions, he has resorted to scare tactics to make his case - a weak one at best.

And by highlighting the fact that homeless people are involved in crime, Braddy has tried to lump an entire segment of the Gainesville population into one category.

You'd think he would be more of a believer in second chances. In 2006, he entered a treatment program to deal with alcohol-related issues after being arrested for driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Maybe it's just easier for him to forget that the homeless are people when so many will find it easier to believe they are predators.

But maybe it's also time to stop feeding into these damaging stereotypes.

If we really want to address the growing number of homeless people in Gainesville, it's time we end the practice of dealing with the homeless as if they are destined to cause problems.

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