On Thursday, the Gainesville City Commission decided to extend the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry contract to keep managing Grace Marketplace.
The commissioners met in City Hall to discuss two proposals that were submitted to run the nonprofit organization: one from the coalition, which has been running the shelter since it opened in 2014, and another from Grace Marketplace Foundation, a new organization.
Grace Marketplace is a non-profit that provides a variety of services that allow homeless people to access resources in one single place. The organization provides beds, daily meals and gives out bus passes, among other services. The shelter operates under the leadership of Jon DeCarmine, director of Grace Marketplace and the coalition.
Bobby Mckeon, who has been using Grace Marketplace’s services since July, went to the meeting to show support for the work the coalition is doing.
“They have given me my life back,” she told the commission at the start of the session.
The Grace Marketplace Foundation, which has no ties to Grace Marketplace, proposed a budget of $701,664, while the coalition proposed a budget of over $1 million.
The foundation planned to put clients into micro-homes inside the campus. It also proposed restrictions on those who use drugs. Jon DeCarmine, Grace’s operations director, does not agree with this approach.
“It’s kind of like the doctor telling you ‘you can’t come into my office until you are not sick anymore,’” he said.
Commissioner Harvey Ward said some of the proposed restrictions would prevent Grace Marketplace from being a low-barrier shelter. These kinds of shelters take in anyone, without having to pass drug tests.
“We are not making widgets; we are taking care of people,” Ward said, “We are saving human lives.”
The commission unanimously approved a motion in favor of extending the contract. It was also met with support from members of the Gainesville community who attended the meeting.
The decision is not final. Next week, the Alachua County Board of Commissioners will vote on the same issue. DeCarmine said the city and the county pay for about 50 percent of the funds that allow Grace Marketplace to stay open.
“It is overwhelming to see how supportive our community and our elected officials are of this project,” he said.
The renewal of the coalition’s contract would be effective for nine months.
“Our goal is always to make sure people have access to the resources they need to get into housing and to get people back into housing as quickly as possible,” DeCarmine said.