Sunday, March 27, 2011



This is important! Below is an edited excerpt from the Gainesville Sun on this issue and this meeting:

“[On Thursday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall] the City Plan Board, which advises the Gainesville City Commission on planning issues, will hear a petition to change the 130-meals-per-day limit on soup kitchens. Kent Vann, the executive director of the St. Francis House on South Main Street, the only establishment affected by the meal limit, filed a petition to have the limit lifted. The petition instead asks that the ordinance, Section 30-111, be changed to allow three hours of serving meals in a day. Vann said meals would be served between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to give clients with jobs flexibility to get there and to avoid a clustering of people downtown.

According to the St. Francis House, the average number of lunches...served increased steadily between 2005 and 2009, when the Plan Board voted to more strictly enforce the ordinance, which had been on the books for years. In a reversal, the Plan Board suggested removing the limit altogether last year during discussions on whether to lift it during holidays. Downtown merchants and residents — along with city commissioners — contend that the meal limit spreads the “burden” of the homeless population instead of concentrating it downtown.

Nathan Collier, owner of The Collier Companies, which has a number of apartment complexes in Gainesville, including Arlington Square downtown, recently wrote an email to commissioners with a plan to ‘keep Downtown Meal Limit.’

‘Gainesville’s Downtown plaza, instead of being an inviting location for families to converge has become a DMZ, occupied by an army of daytime campers,’ Collier wrote. ‘I applaud the kind instincts of those who wish to help those in need BUT not in a manner and a location that hurts so many others who work so hard to make downtown a pleasant place to live. Why must the vagrants take over one of the very best locations the City has to offer?’

Collier also offered a novel idea that is sure to upset homeless advocates: “Why not LOWER the limit? Phase downtown meals out over time? Downtown has suffered long enough!”

Vann said that would only fuel panhandling — not to mention take away food from people in need. ‘You’re hurting human beings is what you’re doing’ he said.”

So this is what we’re up against. The notion that homeless people are vagrants and if they are denied services they will disappear –rolling down Interstate 75 like a little group of tumbleweeds – has been tried, in various arenas, ever since I can remember. If it worked, there might be about three homeless people left in this town.

The idea that the meal limit will result in “services being dispersed through out the city” doesn’t work either. Alternate meal sites throughout the city have not magically “appeared” during the year the meal limit has been in place. Any attempt to make such sites appear would be met by the usual horde of NIMBYS who would enjoy the support of the City since they are committed to
“protecting neighborhoods and businesses.”

The meal limit has resulted in more meal services happening in the downtown plaza, not less (duh). I would be happy to disperse my meal service, but I wouldn’t be able to disperse it very far, since wheelchairs, crutches and canes are a common site in our food line. Perhaps I could disperse it to the banks of the Duck Pond. The Duck Pond Neighborhood Association would need to install porta-potties, a water fountain and picnic tables but I’m sure they could manage that.

WE NEED A BIG TURNOUT FOR THIS MEETING!!! And not just the ‘usual suspects’ - new faces, new voices, and plenty of them.


We are low on personal hygiene products and on vitamins. Almost all the folks out there want one-a-day type vitamins, because they have discovered they feel better when they take daily vitamin. Sometimes I can meet this need out of the Food Bank, but there has been a total dry-up of vitamins there (which happens periodically) so I really need to get these donated. The Dollar Stores often have good deals on vitamins and places like Walgreens often have “two for the price of one” sales.

Enjoy this beautiful Spring, and many blessings,


The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, mylar emergency blankets, games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at

Saturday, March 19, 2011



Years ago, when I volunteered on the swing shift at St. Francis House, I often noticed that, after dark on the day the disability and Social Security checks arrive, a car would pull into the parking lot of the convenience store across from St. Francis House and a man in a suit and tie would disappear into Lynch Park. It wasn’t always the same man, but it was always a man in a black suit driving a black car, probably to be more invisible to law enforcement. This was the crack man, come to harvest the homeless people’s money.

The crack man gives out free samples of his wares, a deadly practice. Addiction experts say that crack cocaine is the most addictive substance on the face of the earth and many people become permanently addicted the first time they use it. The crack man also extends credit, just in case someone might decide to spend a little of their money elsewhere, so he is there to get all or most of their checks. He is a scary guy. I met him once face-to-face, in the early days of the Home Van. We were parked in the same parking lot. He walked over and stood there staring into the van. Competition will not be tolerated. After a moment of frozen silence, I gave him my best “Suzie Stupid” smile and said, “Would you like a cup of hot chocolate?” He pulled a big wad of paper money out of his pocket, snapped it in my face, and said, “I don’t need your hot chocolate.” Then he disappeared into Lynch Park. If you cross the crack man you are going to end up dead or seriously disabled. This man participates in inducing or even forcing homeless women to smoke crack and then putting them to work on the streets.

The crack cocaine trade is also financed by selling food stamps. The going price for food stamps is 50 cents on the dollar. I have been told that some convenience stores located near drug areas buy food stamps for 40 or even 30 cents on the dollar. Individuals buy food stamps because they need more food than they are getting, or as part of the general trade by which people obtain tobbacco, batteries, dog food and other amenities that are unavailable or scarce to poor and homeless people. Every governmental body that cuts down on the amount of food and other services available to homeless and hungry people are helping out the crack man and other predators. As the Taoists say, the web of life is an unbroken whole and every act, every decision, reverberates through all our lives.