More shelter space is coming for homeless people in Gainesville, but, for now, options are limited after two local shelters recently closed.
Good News at Noon has become one of few shelters for homeless people, and construction just started at their new facility at Pearl Nix Parkway and Dorsey Street. The new facility will be about twice as big as their current place, said director Ken Gossage at the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 20.
They currently serve about 150-200 people per week through their outreach programs, Gossage said, and they have 20 beds for single men. The new 12,000-square-foot facility will be able to hold 40 beds for men, and they are planning to add 20 beds for single women, Gossage said.
Two shelters in Gainesville recently closed, causing homeless encampments to grow in recent weeks and months.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of new faces we’re seeing at Good News everyday,” Gossage said.
The Way closed in July after it couldn’t find new space, and Set Free Ministry, across the street from Good News’ new facility space, closed at the end of September.
Mike Fisher, Ninth District Opportunity in Gainesville’s housing/program manager, said the situation is “dire” for homeless people in the area. The nonprofit community action agency works to provide food and supplies to those without a home. Fisher said homeless encampments in the area have grown 30-40% in the past three weeks.
“There has been a time when Gainesville prided itself as saying we were ‘resource rich’ and that is not our current reality,” he said.
As the weather turns cold, emergency shelter space is even more necessary. Once Set Free closed, Gossage said, Good News snapped up its lease and plans on using the facility for women’s shelter space this winter.
“We offer some emergency shelter, and that’s become critical, because Set Free used to do that as well as The Way… and ourselves,” Gossage said. “So we’re really the only one left that’s available for emergency shelters. … We’ll still try to accommodate men on those really brutal nights, get them out of the weather.”
My Sister’s Place and Gainesville Baptist Mission are two other local shelter options, as well as the Salvation Army, but space remains limited.
“We’re full and we stay that way. I have to turn people away regularly because of that,” said Mitch Gowans, director of Baptist Mission. “We noticed a difference when Set Free closed. We had a little bit of an influx that came to us.”
Gossage said he is hopeful Good News’ new location will help attract volunteers while staying in a neighborhood that needs help. The new facility will have more parking access and better street lighting, he said.
“For volunteers it’s just going to be more conducive to getting them here and participating,” he said.
Good News plans to open the new facility in June 2022, Gossage said.