Gwen Barlow and her newborn had to find shelter quick.
Barlow had fallen on hard times after losing her home in 2015, just two months after discovering she was pregnant.
With nowhere else to turn, Barlow checked herself into the tent homeless shelter Dignity Village in Northeast Gainesville. But as she got closer to the end of her pregnancy, she had to find shelter elsewhere because Dignity Village doesn’t accept children.
Just after giving birth in February, Barlow and her newborn, Christopher, went with their only option: St. Francis House, a homeless shelter in downtown Gainesville and the only one in Alachua County that accepts children. There, Barlow shares a small room with her son and another roommate.
“I’ve been looking for months, and there really aren’t enough resources for single mothers, pregnant women, or women with children,” she said. “So if it wasn’t for this place, I possibly would probably be in the streets, and my child would be placed in a foster home.”
Barlow is one of about 1,500 homeless people in Alachua County and one of 35 residents who live at St. Francis on a rotating basis (about one-third of the 35 are under 5 years old). Soon, because the shelter has fallen into funding problems, it might have to cut some of its housing, meals, showers and other services, Executive Director Kent Vann said.
Along with various grants, churches, private donors and other sources, St. Francis has historically drawn funding from the city and county governments. But the city now doesn’t fund the center except for its cold-night shelter — which allows up to 95 people to stay during nights below 45 degrees and receive blankets and a hot breakfast — and the county has made cuts, too, Vann said.
“You jeopardize this emergency shelter without funding, and this is for people who require immediate human needs,” Vann said. “So in other words, you basically jeopardize the place for families with children to stay.”
The shelter’s case manager, William Deitenbeck, said the cuts could be tied to the opening of other homeless shelters in the area, such as Grace Marketplace, meaning available funding is being distributed among a greater number of organizations.
“It would be useful if people wanted to contact their city commissioners and mayor or county commissioners to encourage them to support the St. Francis House,” he said.
But Claudia Tuck — director of the Community Agency Partnership Program, an Alachua County nonprofit agency that provides funding for area homeless needs and has that funding distributed by the Alachua County commission and the county manager — said the agency has no control over how much money is given and where.
Tuck called obtaining CAPP funding “a competitive process.”
“Applications are scored, [and] if your application doesn’t score high enough and there’s not enough money, there’s just no guarantee,” she said.
Because CAPP money is distributed through an annual application process, funding isn’t necessarily cut, Tuck said.
“So there’s no guarantee of funding beyond the year that your award is made for,” she said.