Gainesville city commissioners are still attempting to remedy Alachua County’s lack of funding for local homeless centers.
Last Thursday, city commissioners passed a motion for the city to compensate for the county’s shortage of funds for GRACE Marketplace this year. The motion passed with a 5-2 vote, with Commissioners David Arreola and Adrian Hayes-Santos in dissent.
At the joint City and County Commission meeting on Sept. 23, city commissioners expected the county to commit equal funding to GRACE and Dignity Village, which they had previously agreed upon in May.
However, the county diminished its budget to $500,000, which is $250,000 less than what GRACE was expecting, Arreola said.
“You can imagine. A quarter-million dollars for a homeless shelter is a huge chunk of money,” Arreola said. “They left that meeting leaving GRACE Marketplace short $250,000.”
The county proposed a three-year plan to use the $250,000 taken from GRACE’s overall reserves and reallocate that funding toward permanent housing for the homeless.
However, Arreola said the county has only asked for funding opportunities and hasn’t produced an actual rehousing plan yet.
“It’s like putting the cart before the horse,” Arreola said.
Arreola said his colleagues felt it was best to bite the bullet and spend more to make up for the lost county funding.
The City Commission also wants to secure a five-year contract so they don’t have to negotiate every year, Arreola said.
City Commissioner Harvey Ward supports the motion passed Thursday not only because he wants to get GRACE funded, but because he believes the City and County Commission shouldn’t have to debate this every year.
“If we don’t do this, the people who live at GRACE Marketplace lose. The people who depend on GRACE Marketplace lose.” Ward said. “The county doesn’t lose. We all go home tonight.”
During the meeting, Jon DeCarmine, the GRACE executive director, said he doesn’t mind how the city and county decide to split up the funds, as long as current and future GRACE residents know there will be active responses to emergency crises and housing will remain available to them at all times.
“Both rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing are vital parts of a functioning, housing-first system,” DeCarmine said.
Henri Prichon Hart, a resident at Dignity Village, agrees with the committee as far as permanent housing being a long-term solution.
However, he believes GRACE and Dignity Village still require funding for those making the transition.
“Not everybody is ready for permanent housing, but every homeless person should have a place where they can reside and feel comfortable at,” Hart said.
In Dignity Village, just outside the main gate of GRACE Marketplace, Mark Venzke, 62, describes his plans to renovate his motorhome so he can move out of the 6-foot tent where he currently sleeps.