This weekend at the Depot Event Space, you can find beers and briskets that will give hope to the homeless.
Local restaurant The Top is hosting a winter barbecue at 201 SE Depot Ave. on Saturday, Jan. 20 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to benefit Grace Marketplace, a local homeless shelter.
Admission to the event grants you full access to an all-you-can-eat barbecue, including Texas-style brisket and St. Louis cut ribs, along with bottomless beer provided by a handful of local breweries, like First Magnitude Brewing Company and Cigar City, according to the event’s website.
Bailey Bruce, the events director for The Top, said there are a limited number of tickets.
“We’re not trying to do, you know, this massive festival for the entire northeast of Florida,” Bruce said. “This is something we’d like for it to be intimate.”
People interested in attending are encouraged to buy pre-sale tickets, available online at depotwinterbbq.brownpapertickets.com for $35 before fees until Thursday at 2 p.m.
Bruce said that the vision for the winter barbecue was not to make a profit, but to provide the community with a quality experience while giving back to a local nonprofit organization.
“We wanted the money coming from this event to go into someone else’s pockets,” Bruce said.
Grace Marketplace is a nonprofit homeless assistance shelter in northeast Gainesville that is completely funded by local sources, state and federal grants and private donations.
“We definitely see a homeless population in Gainesville that is not getting enough support,” Bruce said. “We visually see it every day.”
Bruce said they’re excited to support Grace Marketplace because they have a great mission.
“It just felt right,” Bruce said. “They do something really important for our community – these are human beings that deserve help.”
Jon DeCarmine, the director of Grace Marketplace, said everything they do is a community effort.
“Anytime folks from the community recognize the value of what we do and are willing to use their resources to help us end homelessness — it makes everything we do easier to achieve,” DeCarmine said.
DeCarmine has been with Grace Marketplace since it opened in 2014, but was involved with its planning stages as far back as 2005.
“I think about when my kids ask me why people are homeless when there are so many empty houses in our community,” DeCarmine said. “There’s really no good answer for that.”
DeCarmine said Grace Marketplace is a one-stop homeless assistance shelter and emergency center on a 25-acre campus.
The organization and its partnering agencies provide Gainesville’s homeless population with a variety of services every day, from laundry and showers to legal service and health care, according to the organization’s website.
DeCarmine said that every night Grace Marketplace offers 113 beds in what is known as a low-barrier setting.
“That means we provide services to anybody wherever they are – we don’t have requirements for people doing chores or having income, or any of the other restrictions that some other shelters have in place that prevent people from getting the help they need,” he said. “Instead, we focus entirely on how we can move someone from the streets into permanent housing as quickly as possible.”
Since opening four years ago, Grace Marketplace has moved 400 people into permanent housing, 80 percent of whom have remained housed a year later, he said.
“And so that tells us that not only are we having an immediate impact, but also a long-term, sustainable impact,” he said.
DeCarmine said The Top has been a huge supporter of Grace Marketplace in the past and he’s excited to continue the relationship.
“They’re a model of what downtown business relationships with organizations working to end homelessness could be,” DeCarmine said.
DeCarmine is attending the barbecue himself and he expects most people attending to walk away with a better understanding of what our local homeless population looks like.
“Right now there are about 800 men and women on the street in Alachua County,” DeCarmine said. “And unfortunately the folks who are out panhandling tend to be 100 percent of who people see and recognize as homeless.”
DeCarmine said events like this provide the Gainesville community with an opportunity to contribute in a way they can feel great about.
“If any community can end homelessness, Gainesville is the one that can do it,” he said.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that DeCarmine said recognition of Grace Marketplace's value by those in the community helps them end homelessness. A quote from him previously read “Anytime folks from the community recognize the value of what we do and are willing to use their resources to help us and homelessness — it makes everything we do easier to achieve.”