County's purchase of Budget Inn a step toward ending homelessness

Alachua County just took a big step in the fight against homelessness.

At the Nov. 10th meeting, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the $2.3 million purchase of the 36-room Budget Inn motel located at SW 13th Street in Gainesville with the intent of converting it into a 36-apartment unit facility.

As part of the deal, the County immediately contracted with the Alachua County Housing Authority to manage the property with an estimated $207,975 budget for operating costs.

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According to the operational plan, bedroom doors will be installed in the motel rooms to create single room apartments. The Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry process will identify tenants for placement into the apartments and the Department of Community Support Services will provide case management and outreach to residents that they place in units and will enlist the help of other partnering agencies to help with placement.

According to County Manager Michele Lieberman, the purchase will be beneficial for efforts to the homeless population.

Carl Smart said the current inventory of County-owned facilities for housing is too low. Claudia Tuck of Community Support Services said there are more than 300 homeless people currently living on the streets of Alachua County.

"At any given time, we are looking for housing for at least eight individuals," she said. "It's difficult to find safe, decent and affordable housing that is connected to services," she said. The Budget Inn location is near bus routes, medical services and provides a great environment for individuals who are not housed currently, Tuck added.

Individuals would have a lease and would receive support from community agencies, Tucker said.

According to Assistant City Manager James Harriott, the building will need some roof replacement and siding replacement, plus treatment for minimal mildew areas. Over a period of years A/C and HVAC will need to be updated. "We have some very correctable code violations to deal with," he said. "With that recommendation is to move forward," he said about the purchase.

Assistant County Manager Tommy Crosby said funding for the purchase could come out of reserves.

"It's a one time use of funds," he said, and added that CARES Act funds will be going back into general funds balance in the future, and those could rebuild the reserves.

Commission Chair Ken Cornell said the purchase would fulfill part of the County's commitment made three years ago to addressing homeless and moved to fund the purchase."It's a great opportunity."

The BOCC passed the motion to purchase 5-0.

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