A Solution to Tent City?
They call the woods home, living in campsite communities called "tent cities" just yards away from the busy streets of Gainesville.
One tent city in particular, just off South Main Street on city land, attracted a lot of attention about three years ago. And it was cleared out by the city. But, they are back, on nearby private property.
Although the One Stop Homeless Center is taking a long time to complete, local leaders still think it is the solution. The current tent cities in Gainesville are all located on private property, with around 150 people living in the woods. City Manager Russ Blackburn said tent cities present sanitation and safety risks, but if they're on private property, there isn't anything the city can do. Blackburn said the focus is now on: permanent housing.
60 year old David Ormsby said, "Once you hit the bottom and you have nothing...it's real hard to pull out of that." Ormsby said he's a Vietnam veteran who made some bad decisions that led to him becoming homeless five years ago. The question is how to help him re-enter mainstream society.
Blackburn said, "Those persons who aren't participating in society aren't contributing to society and so there's a cost to that not contributing to society that impacts us all." He said although emergency shelters provide short term assistance, they recognize that until people are no longer homeless, there will be consequences.
Blackburn said, "For the homeless ultimately there needs to be services available, there needs to be housing available to address the needs and that's why we find and believe so strongly that the one stop homeless assistance center is really the longer term answer to this issue."
The One Stop Center in Northwest Gainesville is still in the planning phase, but once completed, Blackburn said it will have 60 transitional beds for people moving back into society and a host of other services.
Blackburn said, "Mental health counseling, it's financial counseling, it's assistance in where do you go to get food stamps. All of those kind of services in one location with the professionals that deliver them."
Although Ormsby said he is worried the center won't work for everyone, there is one service in particular that he's excited about: help with veterans forms.
Ormsby said, "Me being a veteran and there's many veteran services, but I can't get through the paper work. I can't get through the go to this office, go to that office, fill out this form."
One important step in the county and city's ability to fund homeless services is the annual "Point and Time Survey," which counts those in the homeless community for allocation of federal and state dollars. That's coming up at the end of the month along with continued planning for the One Stop Center.
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