GRACE Marketplace will reduce its services for unsheltered homeless people starting Oct. 2 to accommodate city budget cuts. The 23-acre homeless resource center in Northeast Gainesville provides emergency shelter, permanent housing, street outreach, showers, hot meals, storage, case management, health care and other services to the homeless community.
GRACE Marketplace lost $150,000 in funding when the city of Gainesville slashed its budget to accommodate cuts to the Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) general fund transfer.
“It’s hard when we understand the financial realities of what the city’s dealing with,” Jon DeCarmine, GRACE Marketplace’s executive director, said in a phone interview. “At the same time, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure that people without housing are not the ones who are suffering the most.”
The city originally planned to cut GRACE’s budget in half to $750,000 but the homeless resource center pushed back and regained an additional $600,000, according to DeCarmine. Half of that comes from city funding, and the other half comes from a $300,000 grant converted to fund shelter operations
Still, the cuts have dropped GRACE’s shelter budget by 10%, with a few ramifications. First, the number of locally-funded shelter beds will drop from 100 to 90. GRACE will still have its additional 26 beds for homeless veterans and four hospital respite beds for those who are discharged by UF Health and have no home in which to recover.
Second, GRACE has reduced its public hours. While shelter guests will still have 24/7 access to the campus, it will only be open to the public for eight hours instead of 12, as before. The public, including homeless people who are not staying in GRACE’s emergency shelter, will be allowed on campus from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Third, 90-100 unsheltered guests who normally get breakfast from GRACE will need to switch to St. Francis House’s Monday to Friday breakfasts downtown. GRACE will continue to serve lunch and dinner during the week and will provide brunch and dinner on weekends.
“We have done, I think, a remarkable job of delivering some really fantastic outcomes with a bare bones budget over the years,” DeCarmine said. “But when that bare bones budget gets cut, even, below a workable number, it puts us in this really bad position of having to figure out what we can do without. And there was never anything extra in the budget to begin with.”
GRACE Marketplace provides resources to anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and there is no shortage of of potential guests. There are 417 unsheltered homeless people in Alachua County, according to DeCarmine. The condition is on the rise, as homelessness in the county has increased by 16%, according to a United Way of North Central Florida press release reporting Point in Time Count results from January.
GRACE is also still seeking another $350,000 from local government to fund the street outreach team which has been completely cut from the budget and will cease operations by Nov. 30 if nothing changes.
DeCarmine said he hopes for a favorable outcome from next week’s joint meeting between the city and county commissions, that might minimize reductions in services. Barring that, the changes will take effect in October.