City Commission Grants Gainesville Management Of Dignity Village

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The Gainesville City Commission passed a motion on Thursday to provide management for Dignity Village.

City Manager Russ Blackburn received permission to establish an emergency contract with a non-profit provider, which will monitor regulations of the area.

Dignity Village, a 10-acre homeless community located off Northeast 39th Avenue next to Grace Marketplace, is experiencing an increase in crime.

Criminal issues including stabbing incidents, drug deals, prostitution and methamphetamine production in the area. The Florida Police Benevolent Association brought this to the attention of Blackburn, Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy and the Gainesville Police Department.

On average, GPD responds to three to four calls per day, Braddy said.

With a growing community, the commission believes it is crucial to set some boundaries.

“We need a short-term solution, because we are at a pretty critical stage out there,” Braddy said. “Something bad could really happen if we don’t get on top of this.”

An undisclosed provider has shown interest in managing the area with a one-year contract. Blackburn has been approved to spend up to $50,000 to secure this arrangement, Braddy said.

About 200 tenants inhabit the village, 17 of whom are registered sex offenders, which is something Braddy expressed concern about.

“There are children out there,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are sex offenders out there and some sex predators. It’s a recipe for disaster unless we get some rules and regulations under control.”

At the meeting, GPD Chief Tony Jones said he has requested that a two-person cop team be assigned to the area.

Deputy County Manager Betty Baker speaks to the Gainesville City Commission on the need for regulations at the homeless camp Dignity Village. Thursday, commissioners approved to spend up to $50,000 to secure an emergency contract with a non-profit provider.
Deputy County Manager Betty Baker speaks to the Gainesville City Commission on the need for regulations at the homeless camp Dignity Village. Thursday, commissioners approved to spend up to $50,000 to secure an emergency contract with a non-profit provider. Abbie Banitt / WUFT

The city commission wants to see recommended regulations concerning alcohol, firearms, age restrictions and warrant checks as soon as possible. Deputy County Manager Betty Baker, and project leader, said she hopes to provide these recommendations by July.

Jim Konish said July is too far away.

“This is an emergency,” said Konish, a Gainesville resident. “There is violent crime. This is a magnet program for the exact people we do not need in our community.”

Braddy said he wants to see the village become a transitional community that provides temporary assistance and empowers people to get back on their feet rather than proving long-term housing.

“We recognize people are having some difficulties that have forced them out of housing, and our goal is to get them in, get them up and get them out into stable housing,” Braddy said.

Joe Jackson, attorney for the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said some residents of Dignity Village want rules and regulations, but they want to be a part of the planning process.

As of now, Braddy said funding for the village will come from an existing homeless services budget. However, he is concerned about future allocations.

“As we think long term over the next fiscal year and beyond, we are going to have to have a serious conversation about how we identify resources for it, if we are going to get community partners to assist us and how much we are willing to allocate,” Braddy said.

Despite this, commission members like Helen Warren remain optimistic about future plans.

“Let’s take this on as a positive source of really building community in the best way possible. I am encouraged by what the city has done already,” said Warren.

Samantha Sosa contributed to this report.

About Abbie Banitt

Abbie is a reporter for WUFT News. Reach him by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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