Michele Gutierrez rode her bike through downtown Gainesville to take it all in Monday.
Gutierrez, the Grace Marketplace administrative coordinator, said she wanted to take her time to see the 600 green placards planted in the grass outside the Alachua County Administration Building. Each placard represents a person who has taken shelter at the homeless shelter.
“Six hundred people is fantastic right now, but that number really needs to triple and quadruple,” she said.
Volunteers at Grace posted the placards to recognize Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which ends Sunday, said Jon DeCarmine, the Grace Marketplace director.
As the week comes to a close, here are three ways Grace Marketplace said Gainesville residents can help the homeless community:
Blanket and coat drive
Grace Marketplace’s fourth annual blanket and coat drive began Monday and will end Dec. 12, said Travis Middleton, the director of community engagement.
The donations will be given to Grace residents to keep warm, Middleton said.
New or gently used coats and blankets can be dropped off at the shelter, at 3055 NE 28th Drive, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., DeCarmine said. Places of worship and offices are encouraged to organize their own drives by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week fundraiser
Grace Marketplace will host a punk rock karaoke fundraiser at The Backyard at Boca Fiesta & Palomino, at 232 SE First St., at 9 p.m. Saturday, DeCarmine said.
A donation between $5 and $10 will be accepted as admission.
Cold Night Shelter Program
Grace Marketplace is open to anyone in need of shelter from cold temperatures tonight, Middleton said. The organization is expecting to provide more than 100 people with warm meals, blankets and a place to sleep during the program Thursday night and tonight.
The Cold Night Shelter Program kicks in when the temperature drops below 45 degrees, Middleton said. The temperature is expected to reach a low of 38 degrees.
Flyers about the program have been posted around Grace Marketplace’s campus, DeCarmine said.
“Our mission is to provide shelter to people in crisis and that is a 24/7, 365 day-a-year job,” he said.
Russ Dye, 54, sits near his tent outside Grace Marketplace on Monday in four layers of clothes to shelter him from the cold. Dye said about 25 people at the shelter still need blankets and coats to bear the drop in temperatures.