The 2016 GRACE Marketplace Fundraising Campaign Missing The Mark

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If more donors dig deeper into their pockets, GRACE Marketplace might be able to find 50 homeless people a permanent place to live.

But so far, that hasn’t happened.

The assistance center for the homeless started its holiday fundraising campaign last December, with the deadline to reach its goal of raising $25,000 by Feb. 17 – which would allow it to house 50 people, said GRACE Marketplace Operations Director Jon DeCarmine. But as of Monday evening, only $2,983 had been donated, according to the center’s page on Indiegogo, an online funding website.

During last year’s campaign, about $28,000 was raised for the center, according to the Indiegogo page. With the almost $3,000 raised so far, however, about six people can be moved into permanent housing, DeCarmine said.

DeCarmine said he’s not sure why this year’s contributions are so much lower than last year.

“I would love to see a bigger response,” he said. “It’s definitely something we’re gonna look into.”

Theresa Lowe, executive director of North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said the lack of a larger response might be due to events that may have overshadowed it, such as GRACE Marketplace’s No Show Gala and the holiday season.

“We launched the campaign late in the year, and it hasn’t really gotten as much traction as the one last year,” Lowe said.

GRACE Marketplace provides first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit, typically costing GRACE Marketplace approximately $1,000, DeCarmine said. People who are being moved to permanent housing are asked to save or raise half the money for the rent and security deposit, and the center will match the amount, he said.

“It would have been nice to have the funds available, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be able to work with those folks,” DeCarmine said. “It just means that we’re going to have to look elsewhere for the money.”

DeCarmine said the center receives money from local, state and federal government, which goes toward general operations.

“It’s never quite enough to operate all of the programs that we want,” he said. “We rely on the community.”

The nonprofit organization that runs GRACE Marketplace, The Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, received about $310,000 in government grants in 2014, according to GuideStar, a public charity that collects information on all IRS-registered nonprofits.

The $28,000 that was raised last year was used to move 19 people into permanent housing, prevent homelessness for one person and provide 520 hours of case management services to shelter residents to help move them out of the shelter, according to the Indiegogo site.

Of the people moved to permanent housing, 14 are still housed, two lost their housing and three have been in a home for 30 or fewer days and have not been followed up with, DeCarmine said. 

Private donations to GRACE Marketplace have been steady since this year’s campaign started, DeCarmine said. About $9,000 has been donated outside of the campaign.

That money will go toward the center’s job-training program, which includes a new culinary training program.

Lowe said the program is in the development phase, but it has already received promises from local restaurants such as Emiliano’s Cafe and Blue Highway Pizzeria to interview participants.

“We’re starting small,” Lowe said. “We’re taking five participants at a time.”

Those participants will go through an eight-week training program and will learn basic kitchen skills to add to their resumes, Lowe said.

DeCarmine said GRACE Marketplace will still be able to achieve goals with a smaller amount of funds from the holiday campaign.

“We’re just going to scale it back a little bit,” he said.

Lowe said donating to homeless shelters saves money that would likely be used for emergency room visits and nights in jail.

“It’s a good investment in the community,” she said.

About Alexandra Fernandez

Alexandra is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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