When driving through the streets of Gainesville, I can’t help but notice the opposing existences– homeless people with signs or carts stand side by side with college students on the street who just got a beer. Drive past the more populated areas by the University of Florida and you’ll find the more impoverished, seemingly forgotten parts of the city, full of mainly black residents in rundown buildings, with rundown business. Sometimes it seems silly that in a community of education and where some parts flourish, there is also the element of homelessness and having not within very close proximity to one another. It almost doesn’t make any sense. So, what is the city of Gainesville doing lately to combat the issue of homelessness?
On Thursday, the Gainesville City Commission will hold in a meeting in which homelessness is expected to be a primary theme. Activists will be expected to complain about meal limitations placed on soup kitchens regarding how many meals they may serve in a day, while citizens and shareholders will likely complain about better maintenance and beautification of shelter grounds.
Back in June, reports Chad Smith with The Gainesville Sun, Ralph Hilliard (who is the administrator in charge of food stamps for the Florida Department of Children and Families) gave presentations on the state of services to the homeless, with particular attention to food. The report given discussed shelters like St. Francis, and mentioned that respect for meal services and their recipients, from their recipients, was essential to everyone’s safety– implying a behavioral problem existing among the needy.
Director of the Office of Homelessness Theresa Lowe says a $4 million center for the homeless will be completed by next summer, reports Rachael Pino at The Florida Independent Alligator. Lowe emphasized the homeless being just like everyone else, and needing a wide range of services.
The St. Francis House shelter and soup kitchen in Gainesville maintains that the establishment provides food, shelter, and support in a “safe environment”– the ultimate goal of these services being to help people reestablish themselves within the community. You can contact them at their site if you need their services, or would like to donate or volunteer.
There are more than 1,200 homeless and hungry in the Gainesville area, and they include a wide variety of people– some you wouldn’t even suspect. When the Gainesville City Commission meets on Thursday, would you be the one championing more meals, or prettier places? Gators and Gator fans walk carefree up and down the streets during football homecoming, with vendors and parties and parades and expensive parking, while other residents of the city wonder where they will eat or sleep that night. These people need help in a wide variety of forms, and one thing we should try to remember is that there are things which we can actually do to help them, if we can only for a moment put their needs ahead of our wishes.
Chad Smith, Homelessness on City Commission’s Thursday Agenda, The Gainesville Sun
Rachael Pino, Commissioners cite progress in homelessness plan, The Independent Florida Alligator
St. Francis House: Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen