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Squatters cause damage at County-owned Budget Inn

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two people were arrested and another three people were trespassed after an Alachua County employee found squatters in multiple units at the Budget Inn, 4401 SW 13th Street, which was purchased by Alachua County with the intention of providing supportive housing for homeless individuals.

An Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to a call at about 2:40 p.m. on February 10 regarding a possible burglary at the Budget Inn. The deputy noted that there are multiple “No Trespassing” signs on the property, but multiple units appeared to be occupied. The Alachua County employee who manages the property told the deputy that all the units had been unoccupied when he last checked it about a week ago, but on that day, he noticed damage to multiple units.

The deputy gave loud verbal commands outside and at every door, and the rooms were cleared one at a time. Mark Isaiah Smith, 33, was detained for entering and remaining in a unit. A search incident to arrest reportedly found 5.7 grams of “molly” or MDPV, and he was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.

Ainsley J’Vaughn Whitton, 34, was arrested on a warrant from Brevard County. Three others were trespassed from the location, but the County employee did not want to press charges.

Alachua County spokesman Mark Sexton told us that there were broken doors and windows in eight units. Alachua County Sheriff’s Office told us the water had been shut off due to a leak, but someone had turned it back on, leading to water damage in several units. Sexton said the County chose not to pursue criminal charges on the trespassers because “If we can avoid it, we don’t want homeless people to go to jail.” Sexton said deputies have agreed to increase patrols at the location, and County employees will also monitor it more often.

The Alachua County Commission voted to purchase the Budget Inn in 2020, and it has been vacant since it was purchased. Sexton said the County has been awarded a $4 million grant from the state to renovate it and get it ready to be occupied, but they are waiting for those funds to be released. Once the funds are received, the architecture and planning stage will take about 4 months, then they can begin the actual renovations.

Sexton said the purpose of the facility is to increase the stock of permanent supportive housing and help get people into homes.

  • If they are doing damage now just wait till they move in instead of free room and board so they can assault taxpayers rob and steal from them how about letting them go elsewhere

  • Brilliant Government in action. First buy a property without the fund to operate it as planned. Then, not arrest people for damaging the property.
    Meanwhile, working folks can’t afford their GRU bill…

  • It is unfortunate that the county commissioners think so little of the taxpayers’ money that they will buy something for over $2 million and then let it decay away from neglect.

    Who was the county employee who decided not to press charges, and do they have the authority to make that decision? On what grounds did they decide that the taxpayers’ investment should not be defended in court?

  • Our govt sucks a lot …. Such a shame our money going to people who gave up on trying

    • Mr352, not all homeless individuals “gave up on trying”. It’s more like society and government gave up on them.

      There used to be state and federal funded institutions for those that are mentally ill and medication alone is not sufficient. And without a home, it’s also hard to be consistent with medications. It’s a loop that is hard to get out of without a proper place for them.

      Covid messed up a lot of people’s lives as well…excessive job losses and the snowball effect of their bills and obligations. Most of America lives paycheck to paycheck, without the ability to put enough away to sustain even a month without a paycheck. It’s a nationwide problem, not just Gville. None of my children learned anything about budgeting or saving or even investing during school. (But they can tell you all about sine, cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant, and cosecant. None of which they actually use in their day to day life…budgeting and saving would have been much more beneficial for kids to learn rather than advanced maths.)

      Don’t even get me started on the atrocious lack of care and support for our Veterans. They can go and risk their lives for their country, but their country then says FU when they come back and need help.

      And once you lose your home, it’s even more difficult to try to find gainful employment.

      Many homeless do not choose to be, would do almost anything to not be. The Budget Motel could have been a fabulous solution had they handled it correctly.

      Everyone loses on this. Taxpayers and homeless alike.

      But I do absolutely agree that something needs to be done about the panhandling. It’s not safe for those panhandling nor for those out and about.

      Just my opinions. Have a lovely day.

    • Unfortunately Lauren Poe already did, toward the end of his tenure.
      Can’t be surprised…

  • No you can’t stay here yet….wait until we spend $4 mill to renovate…then you can move in, do your drugs and destroy the place.

  • Hey Mark Sexton…we need to prosecute criminals and trespassers… we’re a nation of laws…
    Wish they broke into your building and then you’d think otherwise you
    Marxist commie idiot… Sh!t for brains!

    • Some vagrant bum broke into my building by UF and squatted in it and did $1000 damage…the SA
      Office dropped the charges and I never got restitution…the guy kept getting arrested for other BS around the city…
      Maybe he’s in jail now and that’s a good thing.

  • Homeless but can afford drugs? Ah well, these are rather obviously, not the brightest bulbs on the tree.

    • Everyone at Grace does drugs. They should all be piss tested…
      All section 8 should be piss tested…anyone on the welfare should be piss tested… if test positive, lose benefits!

  • Well, at least SOMEONE is getting to use the property. Hasnt this been sitting vacant for YEARS now??

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