Dignity Village Residents Lack Shelter From Summer Storms

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Thunderstorms pose a risk for residents of Dignity Village. The adjacent Grace Marketplace does not have enough space to accommodate all of Dignity Village residents.  Samantha Sosa / WUFT News

For many people, a thunderstorm warning means to get inside quickly. On June 1, when Gainesville was under a severe thunderstorm warning, the only shelter some Dignity Village residents had was their tent.

“What can we do?” Dignity Village resident Shakela Williams said. “I have been out here when it rains and all the tents collapse.”

Dignity Village, located off Northeast 39th Avenue next to Grace Marketplace, is home to 180 people, according to a recent report by retired deputy county manager and project leader, Betty Baker. This number fluctuates regularly.

June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season. Although Gainesville has not experienced a hurricane in recent years, summer can be known for daily afternoon storms.

“The most unsafe thing about this is depending on where their tents are, being around the trees is super dangerous, and this city is like Tree City USA,” meteorologist Marithza Calderon said. “It’s imperative to go indoors during a thunderstorm, any thunderstorm.”

Grace Marketplace provides amenities such as meals and showers for residents of Dignity Village, according to the report. But the number of people using the property is greater than the capacity of its facility.

With the ever-looming possibility of a devastating storm, residents remain subject to the dangerous weather.

“The dorms are only allowed to those people that have a job, which I don’t think is accommodating the homeless,” Williams said. “If you have the money to open this facility for us, then why are a majority of the people out here?”

According to the city manager’s office, they are currently working on finalizing an evacuation plan for Dignity Village, as well as working on figuring out any kind of issues that could come about both in case of an emergency and day-to-day life.

“There’s a draft plan and it’s been reviewed by the county and city’s emergency manager, so that in the event of a storm or an emergency then we have a process that would allow us to transport people from the village to a shelter in the community,” Baker said, “Now that we have the lease to the property we are responsible for them; that was one of the first things we started working on– an emergency evacuation plan in the case of extreme weather conditions.”

About Michelle Clarkson

Michelle is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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