Money for Emergency Shelters Runs Out...Before the Cold Weather Does
As temperatures shrink once again in North Central Florida... a special fund for cold night shelters is shrinking as well. City and county money is running out before the cold weather does.
Each Winter, the City of Gainesville and Alachua County combined allocate $25,000 to the Alachua County Housing Authority and $22,000 to Saint Francis House for nights when the temperature dips below 45 degrees.
However, with 14 below 45 degree nights in November, 24 in December and 6 so far in January, that money is almost gone.
Executive Director of Saint Francis House Kent Vann said, "I think I can go probably for about 2 more weeks." Vann said they only have $8000 left for emergency cold night shelter and that doesn't factor in the cost for January.
The Alachua County Housing Authority is almost completely out of money too. Executive Director Gail Monahan said, "637 dollars left this morning."
The cost per person housed at Saint Francis House is $10.60. Vann said they have room for as many as 135 people on cold nights. But for those who can't stay at Saint Francis House, it costs $35 per person to be put up in a hotel room by the housing authority.
Vann said, "Between the two agencies, we're probably serving an additional 150 people a day and you know this isn't an individual single male...this is families with children as well as single women and single men."
Monahan said because of the economy, there are more children than ever before in need of shelter. She said, "This is the first year in all the years I've done it, that we've seen children."
Despite diminishing funds, both Vann and Monahan said no one will be turned away. Monahan said, "It's tough and finances are tough, but leaving people to freeze to death is tougher. And I do believe this community has that compassion."
The housing authority and Saint Francis House will ask the City of Gainesville on January 20th for $15 to $30 thousand additional dollars for emergency cold weather shelter. The county will be asked to match the city's funds at that time.
For those who choose to stay outdoors, there are blankets provided by Saint Francis House.
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