Alachua County’s $78,000 Homeless Program Tabled

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The Alachua County Sheriff's Office came before the board to request additional funds at the county commission meeting Tuesday. A motion to allocate $500,000 in capital outlay was passed 4-1.
The Board of County Commissioners for Alachua heard a request for additional funds from the sheriff’s office in this November 2014 file photo. The commission on Tuesday tabled the homeless outreach proposal.

Alachua County will not be seeing its proposed pilot Homeless Outreach Team anytime soon.

The Board of County Commissioners reviewed a proposal to create a pilot team to reach those experiencing a homelessness crisis in their meeting today and decided to postpone starting the program.

At a meeting last month between the Gainesville City Commission and the Alachua County Commission, staff were directed to work together on a proposal to expand outreach services for the homeless and mentally ill. According to Tom Tonkavich, assistant director of the Alachua County Department of Community Support Services, the proposal has not yet been brought before Gainesville’s City Commission.

The board of county commissioners postponed deciding on the proposal because of budgetary concerns. Commissioner Mike Byerly said they are not willing to fund the program with the money that remains in their current budget cycle. The board will revisit the proposal and discuss how to fund it in three months when they have a discussion about next year’s budget.

This pilot includes a proposal for one licensed counselor/social worker who, in addition to providing direct services in the field, could also collaborate with others to address unique issues facing the mentally ill and homeless. The $77,938 total cost of the program would be split between the city and the county, although the details of how exactly it would be split have not yet been worked out.

The commissioners had both concern and praise for the proposed outreach team. If implemented in the future, the outreach team would go out into the community to meet people wherever they are, assess their needs and provide outreach services. The meeting did not include a discussion on how potentially homeless people would be identified.

County Commissioner Charles Chestnut IV had concerns about this proposal being an unnecessary duplication of the work that is already being done at GRACE Marketplace, a non-profit homeless center. But other county commissioners explained that the way the two work would be very different.

“I think this is a great proposal and I’d be happy to march it across the street and ask them for half the money if we say we’re willing to come up with half,” county Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said. Commissioner Ken Cornell added, “I do support the idea of being proactive to address the need.”

About Taylor Junck

Taylor is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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