Funding available for homeless called ‘a drop in the bucket'

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 6:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.

Programs in North Central Florida counties received $906,618 worth of federal grants to help fund housing for homeless in the region, a “drop in the bucket” to meet the growing need for shelter, service providers said.

The grants, which were renewed from last year, were a part of a total of $72 million worth of funding spread across the state from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In Alachua and Putnam counties, eight housing programs received a total of $656,188 on top of about $63,400 in DCF funding, said Jack Donovan, the former Gainesville city commissioner who currently serves as executive director of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry.

While Donovan said the funding helps, he said, “It’s really, obviously, not enough.”

In 2011, the coalition found 1,783 homeless people living in the county through its annual survey, a 38 percent jump from 2010.

In two weeks, the coalition will conduct its 2012 count, and Donovan doesn’t have high hopes that the numbers will be any better.

“I don’t know of any reason to be more optimistic,” he said. “I don’t really have a star to guide me on that one.”

In Marion County, four programs received $250,430 from HUD for housing programs.

David Fullarton, the executive director of the Marion County Homeless Council, said the money goes toward maintaining two duplexes for families transitioning from homelessness as well as subsidizing rents for between seven and 10 families scattered throughout the county.

The bulk of the funds — $107,625 — went to Marion County’s Salvation Army.

“It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the need,” Fullarton said. “But like we say, every little bit helps.”

In Gainesville, the Grace Marketplace, a one-stop service center for the homeless, has been in the works for years now, and Donovan said he thought it would have been up and running well before now.

But after selecting a site on Waldo Road, citizens pushed back, sending officials back to the drawing board. Now after choosing a site at 820 NW 53rd Ave., the city is facing lawsuits from a nearby property owner.

The city’s Development Review Board will be looking at the design plans for the property at a meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Donovan is hoping the one-stop homeless center gets built sooner rather than later, as the need for the center keeping growing, he said..

“I think it can help solve a number of problems or at least address some problems,” he said.

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