City addresses safety on SE 4th Pl.; guides people toward resources

Published on February 20, 2024

City of Gainesville addresses safety on Southeast Fourth Place; guides people toward resources

The City of Gainesville is bringing together a multidisciplinary team to address safety issues on Southeast Fourth Place. The short stretch behind St. Francis House, a private shelter downtown, recently has seen an increase in houseless residents sheltering in tents along the sidewalk in the public right-of-way.

The conditions have generated concern from neighbors and nearby business owners, several of whom spoke at the Gainesville City Commission meeting on February 15. Comments focused on the growing collection of tents that began appearing approximately six months ago and now includes more than a dozen.

“Until recently, this was a quiet street with adequate space for on-street parking by our clients and their pets,” said Dr. Kathryn Williams, who has volunteered at St. Francis Pet Care for more than five years. “Just yesterday, a pedestrian client was afraid to walk through the settlement, and she called the clinic from Main Street. So I walked down to the corner and walked with her back to the clinic.”

Due to similar stories and reports of criminal activity, the City has worked for several weeks to coordinate a response. The effort is designed to provide assistance to unhoused neighbors and restore access to the Southeast Fourth Place sidewalk.

“The Gainesville City Commission recognizes this is an issue of critical importance,” said Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward. “That is why last week we approved reallocating $700,000 in unused funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide additional support for people who are experiencing homelessness.”

The action along Southeast Fourth Place is happening in accordance with City of Gainesville Code of Ordinances Chapter 23, Article 5 on Public Rights-of-Way Obstructions and the Americans with Disability Act.

The team on-site will include staff from Code Enforcement and the Gainesville Police Department, who will inform those staying along the sidewalk that belongings must be moved out of the right-of-way. Responders from Gainesville Fire Rescue’s Community Resource Paramedicine (CRP) program will speak with houseless neighbors individually, hand out pocket guides with information and help connect them with local services and resources.

The CRP responders guiding this operation are trained to provide additional information and mental health support. Notices will be posted in English and Spanish. Belongings that remain on the sidewalk in violation of City ordinance will be stored by the Public Works Department for their owners to pick up within 90 days.