WUFT News

Despite Positive Statewide Unemployment Trend, Homelessness Rising In Gainesville

By on September 25th, 2013
A man stands among the bags and luggage at  Bo Diddley Community Plaza Monday, an occasional meeting place for the homeless population in Gainesville.

Stephanie Fuenmayor / WUFT News

A man stands among the bags and luggage at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, a regular meeting place for Gainesville’s homeless population.

Jerry Rowley spends most his nights at Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

He said he moved to Gainesville from Marion County three months ago for more jobs opportunities. He worked for two weeks at a landscaping job but is now unemployed.

Rowley is among the nearly 700 homeless people who’ve relocated to Alachua County within the last year, increasing the homeless population nearly 59 percent despite a drop of 17.5 percent statewide and a decrease in Florida’s unemployment rate, according to the Council on Homelessness 2013 report.

“Losing a job is the key to wind up being homeless,” said Michael Stoops, director of community organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Likewise, getting a job is the key to getting out of homelessness.”

Stoops, who’s familiar with Gainesville’s “unique homeless characteristics,” said that nationally 40 percent of homeless people work either full time or part time.

While the homelessness and unemployment rates are not directly connected, the two opposing trends provide an interesting contrast.

Alachua County’s unemployment rate of 6 percent was lower than surrounding counties of Levy (8.7 percent), Marion (8.3 percent), Columbia (7 percent) and Putnam (10 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics July report.

Still, more people are out on Gainesville’s streets.

Like Rowley, John Fiorvante also spends most nights in the plaza. The 51-year-old is a veteran who moved to the city around six months ago.

Homeless veterans seem to migrate to the city from bordering areas as it provides a bigger range of services and programs to help them out, said Major Stroupe, veteran services director at the Alachua County community support services.

“Gainesville is more of a hub of services,” he said.

Nasim Bowlus, special events coordinator at the Gainesville Salvation Army, said the organization assists nine counties in the area but most services are only available in Gainesville. The company goes to other counties usually for emergencies.

The amount of inquiries for social services has increased from 200 to 450 this year, she said.

Bowlus said programs to keep people at their home, such as providing once-a-year assistance to pay a portion of their electrical bills and offering clubs for at-risk youth, have expanded to accommodate the demand.

Theresa Lowe, executive director at the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry said, while more people are finding jobs now, the amount of homeless people hasn’t been a discernibly effected.

“The economy took a big dip, and the jobs that have come back are not really living — wage jobs,” she said. “We have a lot of people that are working every day but can’t afford to get into housing.”

The coalition reported 2,286 homeless people in its 2013 count of homeless people in the county, 192 more people without a home compared to last year’s amount of 2,094.

Alachua reported 1,745 homeless people in 2013. In 2012 it reported 1,034, according to Council on Homelessness Report for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Based on that report, Alachua and Orange counties are the ones with the highest increase in homeless population statewide.

The number of homeless people being counted can change according to the definition of homelessness being used, Lowe said. A family who lost its house but lives at a relative’s house may be described as homeless under different definitions.

Arupa Freeman, coordinator for the Home Van, a volunteer program that bring food and living supplies to the local homeless, has been heavily involved in fighting homelessness and hunger since September 2002.

Freeman said she has noticed the homeless population she helps “has doubled since last May.” Homeless veterans used to be a big portion in the homeless population, she said, but the number has reduced.


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Local

IMG_1999

Tornado Damages Homes Near Ocala Monday

More than 50 homes were damaged in two separate neighborhoods southwest of Ocala Monday afternoon as severe thunderstorms rolled through.


Cars drive past the filled-in potholes and cracks. Permanent road repairs are not expected until after July 2016. Ronnie Socash / WUFT News

No Immediate Fix for SW 62nd Boulevard Road Conditions

Despite continual repairs to Southwest 62nd Boulevard, commuters will still have to drive along the road’s potholes and “alligator cracks” until it is reconstructed in 2016. Once a project development and environment study is completed, the city of Gainesville can work on a $45.2 million project that will turn Southwest 62nd Boulevard from a two-lane road into a four-lane road.


UF football player JC Jackson was arrested yesterday for his involvement in an armed Robbery on Saturday.  He is currently in the ASO jail on a $150,000 bond.

UF Football Player Arrested After Armed Robbery, Released On $150,000-Bond

University of Florida football player J.C. Jackson has been released on $150,000-bond. Jackson was arrested Monday after turning himself in for his involvement in an armed robbery.


Scott Camil, 68, points to a cartoon depicting himself and other members of the Gainesville Eight at their trial. The original cartoon was given to him by the artist, Bill Day. The Gainesville Eight was the name given to a group of anti-Vietnam war protestors charged with conspiracy to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.

Vietnam War Veteran Rejects Violence, Embraces Peace

Vietnam War veteran Scott Camil once believed the war to be right and honorable. Now, Camil is the founder of Gainesville Veterans for Peace, an organization that partners with other organizations around the area to promote peace.


David Cleveland sits outside his tent in Dignity Village near Grace Marketplace Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Cleveland's campsite is located on a 10 acre span of land that the city of Gainesville will lease from the state.

City Aquires Land Surrounding GRACE Marketplace

The city is finalizing an agreement to use 10 acres of land currently occupied by Dignity Village homeless encampment which could create a more regulated environment.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments