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'Wishing he were back’: Gainesville homeless lament loss of The Way day center
07302021HOMELESS1
Kimberly Loomis talks about the closing of The Way day center outside of Good News at Noon. The center served Gainesville's homeless community through meals, showers and donated items.

With the temperature down in the single digits, Mark Callaway recalled The Way day center’s operator, Jerry Deyton, coming down to Callaway’s tent late at night to help get him somewhere warmer.

“He said, ‘Come on, man,’” Callaway said. “It’s getting cold, man.’”

From sleeping bags to help with their Social Security benefits, members of the Gainesville homeless population saw The Way on Bradford Street as a refuge.

Deyton told The Times earlier this week about the struggles to find a new spot in the midtown area to serve Gainesville’s homeless population. He has moved out of the spot but still plans to do pop-up ministry work and collaborate with other agencies.

“A lot of people now wishing he were back, because really there’s not a bunch of places you can go other than here,” said Tommy Green while standing outside of Good News at Noon.

Good News at Noon director Ken Gossage said he has noticed an uptick in the use of the facility’s showers since The Way’s closing. The Way typically served breakfast and lunch, while Good News at Noon provided lunch and dinner.

“One thing that was kind of a niche for (Deyton) was the tents and sleeping bags and things like that,” Gossage said. “We got some of those that he had left over, but they quickly went.”

Deyton and other volunteers would help members of the community obtain essential personal documents such as birth certificates, IDs and Social Security cards, using The Way as a place to receive mail.

Callaway said he is now going to have to find a way to transfer these items to keep up with his Veterans Affairs’ and Social Security benefits.

“Even to this day Jerry does this, he will help you if you have an honest need,” said Kimberly Loomis, who has been living in her truck.

When the weather turned worse, people would use The Way to get out of the elements. With The Way closed, there’s one less option to beat the heat this summer.

“You got to do what you got to do, and for a woman out here, it’s not a safe place really,” Loomis said. “Because women have been harmed out here, followed out here, and it’s hard for a woman to have to use the bathroom out here.”

Green said Deyton was good to everybody, even offering jobs to people to help out with running The Way.

“I don’t like keeping debts, so therefore I will pay him back because it’s not right to take and then just not give back,” Loomis said. “… Those that have been helped by him are blessed by him.”

Gossage discussed back in May the plans for Good News at Noon, which serves more than 100 people a day, to construct and move into a space twice as large. The new plan would allow them to have 40 beds in a men’s dormitory and 20 beds for women.

Gossage said Thursday, July 29, they intended to be in the new building by the end of the year, but a more likely timeline will be the spring of 2022. He said there is no expected disruption of services during the transfer to the new facility.


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