Taking a Stand for the Hungry by Going Hungry
Some Gainesville residents are taking a stand for the hungry, by going hungry themselves.
Homeless advocates and members of the homeless community are camping out on the steps of City Hall in Gainesville to protest a City Ordinance that restricts foodbanks and shelters from distributing more than 130 meals per day.
Emotions are high and stomachs are empty, all to protest the ordinance. There are over 1300 homeless people living in Alachua County. Homeless advocates are afraid that hundreds are going hungry every day, not because there's a lack of resources, but because of the City's ordinance.
Jimmy Lease, said, "I think if people went hungry for a day or two, they'd realize it is a big deal." Lease said he has met people in Gainesville who have been turned away because they were the 131st person in line for food.
He said, "There is no limit on the amount of people who are hungry and if places are able and willing to feed more than 130 people, I feel like it's not fair to impose a limit on people who are hungry."
The main foodbank affected by the ordinance is St. Francis House in downtown Gainesville. It's one of few food banks in the area that serves a meal everyday at lunch.
Although there are dozens of food pantries in North Central Florida, actually accessing the help available is another challenge for the needy because of a lack of transportation.
But Theresa Lowe, Director of the City and County joint Office On Homelessness, said caring for the homeless is a priority, even with the ordinance in place.
Lowe said, "I don't think it's that the city and county don't care about the homeless residents, it's just that they have to balance the needs of everyone in the city. The homeless residents as well as the local businesses."
Some of the projects that are in place to help the homeless are the County's Hunger Abatement Plan, the 10 year Plan to End Homelessness and the One Stop Homeless Center that will eventually be constructed.
But those opposed to the ordinance have said that promises for the future don't help the needy today.
Director of Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in Gainesville Anne Voyles said, "The long range plan is to have a place for them, but we're not there yet and so can we not open are arms a little wider for a period of time until we can get set up to take care of them?"
On the Thanksgiving holiday and two other times during the year, the ordinance imposed limits can be exceeded. Most local shelters and pantries plan to take advantage of that by serving as many needy people as possible on Thanksgiving.
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