Sunday, August 25, 2013


Duck Pond opposition spurs Plan Board to reject probation office's move

“Stalled out for years at a prior location, the city's longstanding plans for a homeless shelter and assistance center east of Gainesville may have hit another stumbling block.
After hearing hours of opposition from dozens of residents of the Historic Duck Pond neighborhood Thursday night, the city's Plan Board denied a permit application to relocate the state's downtown probation office to a building along Northeast First Street just west of the neighborhood.
The state was to take ownership of the building, a former law office just north of City Hall that more recently housed the police department's detective division, in a land swap that was part of the agreement for the city to get the shuttered Gainesville Correctional Institution on Northeast 39th Avenue for the homeless assistance facility...”
                                                                                                                                                                    -Christopher Curry/Gainesville Sun/8/22
The probation office has been located downtown, a few blocks from the Duckpond Neighborhood, for at least the past 30 years.  For the past several years it has been located two blocks away from my home in the Southeast Historic District, one of the lowest crime rate neighborhoods in the city.  In all that time there has not, to the best of my knowledge, been a single incident of criminal behavior connected to the comings and goings from that office. 
This decision of the Planning Board will not go before the City Commission.  It will stand unless it is appealed, through a process I’m not familiar with, and that appeal will also go before the Planning Board.
A book called A Course in Miracles makes a statement to this effect:  All human behavior comes from either fear or love.  I have analyzed my own actions and the actions going on around me and I’m convinced that this statement is absolute truth.  We now have an instance of a decision based on  fear.  Decisions based on fear tend to have very bad results.  In this instance, help for the sick, elderly and disabled people who make up a substantial portion of the homeless community has met another major stumbling block.
I have not, in my almost 70 years, seen anything like the suffering that is going on in the homeless community.  Some nights there are so many people with canes, crutches, in wheelchairs, bent over, lined up at the Home Van that I feel like I’m looking at a line into a faith healers tent.  There has been a sense that we are all hanging on by our fingernails waiting for the One Stop Center to open. 
I am not going to demonize the people of the Duckpond Community or their allies for this decision.  I have struggled with irrational fear for all of my life and I know how powerful it is.  Wise beings have said that there is only one force in the universe that is more powerful than fear, and that is love.  After some contemplation, I have decided that I’m going to hold a candelight prayer vigil on the banks of the Duckpond every Sunday night from 7 to 8 p.m., beginning Sunday, September 1.  I am inviting the entire community, housed and unhoused, rich and poor, to join me.  People of all faiths and no faith.  Atheists and secular humanists are invited to join me.  Their belief that love and grace and creativity lie within the human spirit I hold as sacred as any belief held by me or anyone else.  We are all one. 
That the human family may come together, that we may love and care for one another, that we will stop being afraid of one another and shooting at each other and shutting each other out – that will be our prayer and our affirmation.
Please join me on the banks of the Duckpond on Sunday, September 1 at 7 p.m. or any Sunday after that.  Please invite others.
Peace and love to everyone,