Editorial: A 'ray of hope'

A homeless encampment in Gainesville.

Published: Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.

Writing in the current issue of the Iguana, homeless advocate Arupa Freeman makes a forceful case for the conversion of the old Gainesville Correctional Institution into a one-stop homeless service center.

The site "has many rooms with bunk beds, bathrooms, large institutional kitchen and offices," she writes, "so it would not require extensive, costly, renovations. It is located near a jail and an airport, making it a tough sell that...property values are going to be damaged by its presence. It is on a bus line and has sidewalks and a bike trail."

It "is the first ray of hope we have seen in a long, long time," she continues.

Or maybe not. City officials now say that while the Department of Corrections is apparently willing to sell Gainesville most of the land on which the facility sits, it intends to keep the old prison's administration building, clinic and parking lots for its own use.

In other words, after nearly three decades of fruitless searching for a homeless shelter — battling reluctant neighbors, lawsuits, zoning restrictions and more — this latest "ray of hope" may soon fade.

We hope not. Gainesville ought to pursue this acquisition with the intention of operating a one-stop service center for the homeless. And if it takes the cooperation of Alachua County's legislative delegation to make that happen, then so be it.

The site seems ready-made for the purpose. The location is close enough to the city's center to be accessible.

Freeman concludes with "those who support and work for this siting of the One-Stop Center will be working to save lives and alleviate suffering."

If the city has to take on the DOC bureaucracy to make this long-unrealized goal a reality, then we urge our lawmakers to line up on Gainesville's side.

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