Homeless Population Decreasing in Downtown Gainesville
Gainesville, FL -- The population of downtown Gainesville appears to be changing. Many of the people who once hung around Bo Diddley Community Plaza and caused trouble have moved on now that Gainesville's new homeless center has opened and the people at the plaza tonight were there for other reasons.
"I think over the last few months we've definitely seen a marked decrease," said restaurant owner Diego Ibanez. Ibanez, owner of Emiliano's in downtown Gainesville, is talking about the homeless population around Bo Diddley Plaza. A plaza that was once a magnet for Gainesville's homeless population, Ibanez said, is no longer.
According to Ibanez, "ever since the opening of the Grace Marketplace, the Empowerment Center, it definitely has been servicing that community." Friday night the Plaza welcomed residents young and old out to the city of Gainesville's free friday concert and it's Artwalk event.
Jess Yelvington has been painting at Artwalk for the past year and said she's never had a problem with panhandlers or homeless individuals at Artwalk. "I've never had any issue with being harassed and seeing anything but a good crowd and happy people," said Yelvington.
Ibanez said panhandlers tend not to come out to these events. Ibanez said, "I think when we have events downtown, it tends to dissuade that population, it's not conducive i guess to panhandling."
And Yelvington said the atmosphere is always friendly and respectful.
The Grace Marketplace is offering services to anyone who needs them, however it's not expected to be fully operational until October of this year.
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