Mayor, city commissioners descend down side of building for affordable housing

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe descends down the side of the 5001 building in Celebration Pointe Friday during the Alachua Habitat for Humanity’s Over the Edge fundraiser. The fundraiser raised at least  $15,000 for the organization. “You just lean back and enjoy the ride,” Poe said.

City Commissioner Helen Warren spent more than six hours at an affordable housing meeting Thursday night. The next afternoon, she dangled off the side of a building for the same cause.

Alachua Habitat for Humanity hosted its inaugural Over the Edge fundraiser Friday where participants rappelled off of the 5001 building at Celebration Pointe.

When Warren’s feet touched the ground after the five-story descent, she said thought of a tune that would have captured the moment.

“They should have played Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’,’” Warren said.

Community members, including UF students and local politicians, took the plunge to raise money and awareness for affordable housing in Gainesville.

Individuals had to donate $1,000 to rappel off of the building, and other participants were sponsors and VIPs, said Jocelyn Peskin, the development director for Alachua Habitat for Humanity. Thirty-four people rappelled during the fundraiser, and at least $15,000 was raised for the Habitat’s affordable housing initiative.

Mayor Lauren Poe was given a blue and black harness and a blue helmet. After he suited up, he went to the roof of the building where rope technicians attached him to a rig.

Then he leaned off the building and slowly slid down the rope.

Poe smiled and held on tight as he descended. He said he was excited about the exposure for the fundraiser.

“You want to bring awareness to folks that aren’t intimately aware of the organization,” Poe said.

The need for affordable housing in Alachua County is increasing dramatically, and many families are struggling to get by, Peskin said. One-third of families are cost-burdened or severely cost-burdened.

Affordable housing alleviates a large portion of that financial burden, she said.

“When you have to spend a huge amount of your income on housing, that doesn’t leave you enough money for other necessities,” Peskin said.

The organization’s affordable ownership initiative builds cost-effective housing throughout Alachua County. The organization has built eight homes this year, Peskin said.

Yael Diamond, a 21-year-old UF ROTC member and political science junior, was invited by Habitat for Humanity to volunteer for the event, Diamond said.

Diamond and her peers helped catch participants as they rappelled toward the ground. Doing her part to help raise awareness for affordable housing was a great way to spend her Friday, she said.

“We are always glad to help the community,” Diamond said.

Contact Aaron Ritter at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @AaronRitter18