Queen of Peace leaders say they are not building a homeless shelter near Haile Plantation
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Officials are clarifying that plans to expand the Queen of Peace Catholic Church do not include building a homeless shelter.
Church leaders sent a letter Friday to “neighbors” to clarify their intentions after concerns were raised that the church was building a temporary housing center for the homeless in the Haile Plantation neighborhood.
According to the letter, the proposed St. Joseph Family Life Center would have “eight classrooms and a multipurpose room for large gatherings, faith formation, wedding receptions, and church events. There is no cooking kitchen, only a catering space, and there are no sleeping rooms.”
The Alachua Developmental Review Committee voted in favor of the 11,000-square-foot family life center.
“It’s a wonderful way to say to the community, we’re with you,” said Father Al Esposito, pastor at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.
Residents were concerned the new facility would be used for a 24-7, 365 homeless shelter, however, that is not the case according to the letter. Queen of Peace church members and Family Promise partnered to host participants for a week at a time, twice a year.
“The main thrust of the building is to provide a place where people of all ages can receive faith formation, have retreats, and gather,” said Pastor Al.
Church members said the goal is to end homelessness. They plan to take individuals in who may have been evicted or lost their jobs until they find new opportunities.
“Our parish would be very proud to say lay your head here for a while and we’ll help you get back to gainful employment and dignified housing,” said Pastor Al.
However, the plan raises concerns for some, who believe it will draw homeless people to Haile Plantation. A meeting was held on Thursday for concerned residents.
“I certainly think the concerns of the people residing in this community are very important,” said resident Jill Day. “The people living around the area, adjacent to the facility, definitely need their concerns to be heard.”
According to church staff, the facility’s been a 35-year plan in the making. Church staff said families must pass mental and drug exams before being brought to the proposed facility.
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