bench sleeper

Housing the Homeless

What must be done to alleviate this poverty?

Two men discuss transitional housing

Although many assume homelessness in Gainesville is a direct result of a housing shortage, there are about 10,000 local rooms available for rent, Jon DeCarmine said, the executive director of the City of Gainesville/Alachua County Office on Homelessness.

Ironically, every night dozens of individuals can be found sleeping on sidewalk benches below fliers that advertise, "Rent available."

"The problem is not a shortage of housing," DeCarmine said. "It is a shortage of affordable housing."

The constant influx of wealthy college students in Gainesville creates a housing market that is far outside the price range of individuals working for minimum wage.

However the solution is not simply creating more affordable homes. There is specific need for supportive housing that can cater to the needs of homeless persons with disabilities.

"Individuals with high school diplomas and great credit are not the ones sleeping in the streets," DeCarmine said. "People without housing normally have terrible records and require housing assistance."

Currently, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing programs are the most effective means to alleviate this widespread poverty.

For example, VETSPACE (Veterans Providing a Caring Environment) is a transitional organization comprising five programs that offer housing and care for homeless veterans. Individuals can enroll in the programs and be assisted for time periods ranging from six months to five years.

Additionally, programs such as Metamorphosis, which provides 12 months of treatment for drug abuse, and Meridian Behavioral Healthcare cater to specific disabilities while offering transitional housing.

Recently hundreds of government, education, homeless and business volunteers have developed the Gainesville/Alachua County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Known as GRACE (Gainesville Region/Alachua County Empowerment) for the Homeless, this plan aims to provide an additional 350 beds for homeless persons, to expand affordable housing, to provide access to free medical care and many other services.

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