Gainesville off-the-books

Listen, I don’t really object to the City running an off-the-books homeless camp on Main Street.

I just think they ought to own up to it.

After all, it’s been a long time since city government has done very much to promote or support downtown as a desirable place to live work, play or do business.

So it should surprise nobody that the area has been deteriorating into a skid row for quite a while now.

But I do object to the disingenuousness of our local government allowing a downtown tent city to sprout up in front of the old fire station, sending trucks and employers to periodically haul off the trash and tidy things up, and even providing campers with lockers and port-a-potties…all the while asserting that what goes on there has nothing to do with the City.

You see, if Gainesville admitted that it was running a downtown homeless encampment,, then the City would have to staff it, budget it and assume liability for it.

It is City property – which is to say, our property – after all.

If the growing collection of tents, sleeping bags and their owners were occupying private property, one might reasonably assume that there may be health and safety code violations involved. But apparently the city doesn’t enforce such codes – certainly not when they occur on taxpayer property.

I am not suggesting that City Hall does nothing to combat homelessness. Quite the contrary. The support Gainesville has given to organizations like Grace Marketplace is commendable. And the latest initiative to dispatch social workers among the homeless to better understand their problems and how they might be assisted, is long past due.

But it is also true that people who work, live and do business in downtown Gainesville have long complained – mostly in vain – about aggressive panhandling, people sleeping in their doorways, harassment, litter and other problems associated with the presence of more and more street people in the city core.

If I were running a restaurant, hotel, apartment building or other downtown enterprise, I’d wonder about the logic of Gainesville offering up its old firehouse exterior to accommodate some of the same people who are making it harder and harder to do business there.

But that’s just me. I’m sure they know what they are doing at City Hall.

BTW: Wouldn’t the City Hall lawn make for a much better campground? At least then our public servants could keep an eye on what’s going on right outside their windows.

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