Low-income rooming house closing


Anchor Lodge owner/operator Andrew Bartholomew looks at an old newspaper clipping while seated in the building's office Wednesday, January 26, 2005. The clipping is from when his parents first bought the rooming house in the late 1970's. The building will be torn down to make way for the University Corners Project. At center daughter Michelle Bartholomew, 4, watches her father from a doorway. Bartholomew said that he wants to continue the legacy and provide low-income housing to those who are in need.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 12:01 a.m.
Jimmy Miller, an unemployed dishwasher, spent about a year in the late 1990s living on the street.
After six years at Anchor Lodge, a rooming house for low-income people near the University of Florida, the 48-year-old said he's facing the very real prospect of being homeless again.
"I definitely could be," Miller said Wednesday, standing in his $75-a-week room as he prepared to cook some noodles in a communal kitchen down the hall. "But I don't want to go back to the street."
He's among about 20 Anchor Lodge tenants who have until March 1 to find other housing. They and about 20 other tenants who already have been relocated were told in December that the rooming house will be razed to make way for the sprawling University Corners project planned near the corner of W. University Avenue and NW 13th Street.
The 40-room Anchor Lodge at 205 NW 14th St. is on property that may be used for a parking garage for the commercial and residential complex that will stretch for about three blocks.
The loss of Anchor Lodge, which has served low-income people since 1978, has sent its current owners, advocates for the homeless and housing officials - and even the developer of University Corners - scrambling to find other accommodations for the residents.
"For many of these people, it's the first step off the street," said Beth O'Grady, coordinator of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry.
She said the difficulty in relocating the tenants "is an example of the lack of affordable housing in Gainesville and Alachua County."
Gail Monahan, executive director of the Alachua County Housing Authority, said that if other homes aren't found for the remaining tenants of Anchor Lodge, "it has the potential to produce a pretty big hit of homeless."
"We don't have housing for the people we already have," she said.
Monahan said her office estimates there are about 1,200 homeless people in the Gainesville area.
'An in-between place' Andrew Bartholomew, who owns and manages Anchor Lodge with his wife, Joyce, said he doesn't think many of the remaining tenants will end up homeless.
"Everybody who's left pretty much has a plan," Bartholomew said. "And we've been giving references for people who already have left.
"Most of the others who were here have found other places to live."
His late parents, Mary and Earl Bartholomew, bought the former church building in 1978, when it was called Campus Lodge and had been used for several years as a rooming house for college students and others.
At that time, its rooms were rented almost exclusively to low-income nonstudents.
Andrew Bartholomew said some people think Anchor Lodge is a shelter for the homeless.
But it never has been, he said. "It's sort of an in-between place for low-income people," he said. "Some of our residents are people who work the labor pool and can't afford the motels, or elderly people on Social Security."
Most of the residents are men, although a few women live at Anchor Lodge.
It is for single adults, and posted signs say rooms are to be occupied by no more than one person - no overnight visitors.
Residents pay $75 a week for a room with communal bathroom or $90 for a room with private bath, utilities included. No deposit is required.
Bartholomew said he would like to find another building that could be converted to a rooming house to continue to serve people on limited income.
"I'd like to manage it and carry on my parents' legacy," he said. "We helped a lot of people over the years."
Trying to help University Corners developers have a contract on the Anchor Lodge property. Michael Conroy, president and managing member of University Corners, said they've been working with Monahan and others to try to find housing for residents who will be displaced.
"We're trying to hold off closing the deal until such time as we can get as many people satisfactorily moved as possible," he said.
Conroy said they've talked with churches and housing officials to try to "develop some alternatives for the (people) living there."
He said he's even thought about moving some other old homes on the University Corners site and converting them to rooming houses.
"But we haven't been able to find the dirt to put them on," he said.
"It's certainly our intent and willingness, backed by our financial capacity, to move some of these people," Conroy said. "We're committed to helping in any way we can."
Making the move Miller is one of the few long-time residents left. He said he has a lead on another rooming house near Shands at AGH. When he visited there recently, he said, he didn't have the money for the only room that was available.
Since then, his twice-monthly $294 worker's compensation check arrived, he said, and he planned Wednesday afternoon to ride his bike to the rooming house and get the room if it is still available.
"It's $90 a week, or $360 a month," said Miller, who said he injured his back while working as a dishwasher. "Here it's only $300 a month. That extra $15 a week is a lot.
"But I don't have no other choice," he said. "I don't want to wait until the last minute and maybe not find anything."
Bob Arndorfer can be reached at 374-5042 or arndorb@ gvillesun.com.

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