Homeless shelter for winter advocated

Charles Clark puts on a donated pair of warm socks Thursday outside the St. Francis House. Clark said that he is temporarily homeless and comes to stay at the shelter when its cold.

DOUG FINGER/ The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 12:39 a.m.
While area homeless shelters were scrambling to house an expected influx of overnight guests Thursday, homeless advocates said the city still needs to consider erecting a temporary winter shelter.
But convincing homeowners that a shelter won't bring crime and blight to their neighborhoods may be the best way to get the Gainesville City Commission to approve one, they said.
"I think fundamentally, people are afraid of homeless people, and in part are afraid of a whole bunch of them in the same place," said Joe Jackson, a University of Florida law professor and former chair of the now-disbanded Safe Space Task Force, which generated ideas for a "safe space" at the City Commission's request. "That fear is unfounded. . . . These are by and large very reasonable, well-behaved folks who simply need our help."
The Task Force had proposed the city erect an army-style tent or open an abandoned building from December through February. They said running the temporary shelter would house an extra 75 homeless people a night, and cost the city $1 per overnight guest.
The proposal stalled after people who lived and worked around the proposed sites of the shelter said they didn't want it in their neighborhoods.
As a result of the meetings, shelters are now allowed to admit extra guests when the temperature drops to 45 degrees, instead of 40 degrees.
St. Francis House Director Jim Boggs said a homeless shelter still needs to be on the city's drawing board.
"I think it requires discussion in a period where you don't have emergency cold weather situations," he said, adding that the city needs a "more precise" plan for the shelter.
"The (Gainesville City) commission really wanted to help. I just think they didn't have enough specific information to act on what they were asked to do. I don't think any of them discounted the fact that there was a need," he said.
"The real sticking point in all of this," said Theresa Harrison, chair of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, "is where do we put it? Where do we put it that's going to be usable for the population we serve, but at the same time doesn't become a burden for the people who live around it?"
She said the ideal location for the shelter is downtown or in east Gainesville - someplace with easy access to bus depots, the health department and public libraries, all spots frequented by the homeless.
Ashley Rowland can be reached at 374-5095 or rowlana@ gvillesun.com.

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