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Dignity Village closing delayed

A recent photo shows tents and trash outside GRACE

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The City of Gainesville and Alachua County decided back in May to close Dignity Village, a campsite for homeless people, and transition its residents to either a temporary campground at GRACE (the one-stop homeless resource center serving Gainesville and Alachua County) or a more permanent housing situation. The plan was to stop new people from setting up camp at Dignity Village starting October 1 and move everyone to new platform tents at GRACE (or to other housing) by January 1.

However, it appears that the schedule has been delayed.

According to a blog post by Jon DeCarmine, the Executive Director of GRACE Marketplace, Dignity Village was founded in 2014 after GRACE opened “and shortly after, City officials worked with a private landowner to shut down a large tent city off of South Main Street. People were told, ‘You can’t stay here, but you can set up a tent near GRACE and have access to services.’”

The blog post said the city would fence the area in October and an “unarmed” security guard would ensure that only residents could enter. However, at the December 5 City Commission meeting, Scott Hesch, a Dignity Village resident, complained that armed guards were patrolling and that, without warning, vehicles were not being allowed to re-enter the camp. Hesch said one of the guards had an AK-47 in his vehicle and that he felt that was “over the top.”

DeCarmine’s blog post said that platform tents would be constructed on the grounds of GRACE and that they would only be available to people who lived in Dignity Village as of October 1. He wrote that the campers would be able to use all the services at GRACE and they would be prioritized for housing. The entire transition was projected to take about 2 years.

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DeCarmine reported at the December 5 City Commission meeting that about 100 platforms had been constructed. 

TV20 went out to Dignity Village to report on how the move was going and was told by the residents that they now have until March to move. 

Recent photos and video from the site show new fencing around a parking lot at GRACE and tents and trash near the fence. There is also a gate across the road that leads to Dignity Village.

In response to our questions, Shelby Taylor, Director of Communications for the City of Gainesville, said that there is no official “close date” for Dignity Village. She said the first step is to complete the perimeter fence, which will allow them to get an accurate count of the number of people who will need to transition to another housing solution. Various reports over the past few months state that about 200 people have been living at Dignity Village.

Taylor said the fence had been delayed by vendors, but one of the contractors would be able to begin “immediately following the new year.” The work is currently being done by All Florida Enterprises.

Jon DeCarmine could not be reached for comment.

  • Witnessed prostitution “homeless” with standard homeless cardboard sign get picked-up by client in vehicle on NW 13th street and 16 Ave on the Walgreens corner…Also, first amendment sidewalk protection is fine but ultimately requires them to leave sidewalk to enter street traffic at which point law enforcement can technically site alleged homeless. Lets try that.

  • I saw a nasty mess when I went to the market place to give bananas and eggs! Trash was blowing all around! Why not let folks pay for a meal with a bag of trash or just cigarette butts!

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