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The City of Gainesville removes residents property from The Civic Media Center

A video surfaced on Facebook showing Dora Stephens a Gainesville Resident pleading to have her property returned. Her belongings were removed from outside of The Civic Media Center by the City of Gainesville. A spokesperson for the city tells TV20 the items have since been returned.
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 6:31 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A group of homeless people in Gainesville left their personal belongings outside the Civic Media Center, only to have their possessions taken by the city.

Florida Prisoner Solidarity posted a video on Facebook and in it, you can hear Dora Stephens pleading to have her property returned after it was removed. She said, “We have nothing they left me without nothing.”

The Civic Media Center allows the homeless community to sleep and leave their belongings on the sidewalk outside their doors.

Stephens said she once felt comfortable at the center.

“It makes me feel too scared to even leave anything out here, cause who knows they might come back here and take it again,” said Stephens. “I’ll have to start all over again. Money is not easy and it is hard to find work out here because I’m a homeless person.”

She said when her property was taken she felt like her life was taken from her.

"I was devastated because this is like the fourth time I had to start all over as it is," said Stephens.

She said this situation added more weight to her difficult situation.

"I'm struggling out here as it is and living from day-to-day. Yes, it took a toll on me and to the point where I thought about committing suicide because it's sad that we don't get the support and help," said Stephens.

The City of Gainesville and Mayor Lauren Poe took notice of the situation. The mayor put out a statement on Facebook saying in part, "While the possessions were removed in response to a complaint, we should have taken more time to find the owners and worked with them to find them better options to living on a sidewalk."

Stephens said the coordinators of The Civic Media Center said the property is going to be returned.

"The lady that runs the center came and said that they got an email, saying that the city says that they are going to return my items. Who knows, we will see," said Stephens.

A spokesperson for the city said that the items have been returned. The Executive Director of Grace Marketplace Jon DeCarmine sent TV20 a statement saying in part, "This incident highlights the critical need we have in our community for more outreach teams, more affordable housing, and more programs with low barriers to entry to help the most vulnerable people on the street."

Stephens said that she is prepared to face any battle after overcoming cancer. She said she will not put her head down even in this situation.

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