by Theresa Lowe
Executive Director of Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry
GRACE Marketplace, the current iteration of the long awaited one-stop assistance center, opened its doors on May 5. Limited services, such as issuing bus passes, access to restrooms, a place to receive your mail and an air conditioned friendly spot to have a cup of coffee and relax for a bit, are currently being provided Monday through Friday, 9 am until 4 pm.
On Sunday, June 1, additional services will kick off with a barbeque. Call to Action will be bringing out their grills, and we’ll be hosting the first of our daily dinners on campus.
We will also open a secure area where homeless persons can store their belongings, a lending library, church services in our chapel and host an NA meeting. Services will be provided daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
The following day, Monday, June 2, we’ll be opening the doors to the on-site service providers. Included among them: Alachua County Social Services; Three Rivers Legal; Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and the VA. More providers are being added daily with the ultimate goal being that if you homeless, at risk of homelessness or lower income and looking to change that, then GRACE Marketplace is the place to go to access services.
In July, we will open the first beds in our emergency shelter. The shelter will house individual men and women. We’ll also open shower and laundry facilities.
Future plans for the campus include: on-site tent camping; a “Dress for Success” clothing closet; a culinary program; entrepreneurship training; GED classes; gardens; and on-site grooming.
We have several areas on campus that are suitable for different types of training sessions and community meetings. If you’re interested in providing a class on campus or holding a meeting, please contact us at (352) 792-0800 after June 1.
To keep all of this going, and add more services to help our community, we will need a wide range of volunteers.
Our most pressing current need is for additional groups to sign up to provide meals on site. There is a nice dining room connected to an empty kitchen. Until we are able to purchase and install equipment, we need ready to serve meals brought in daily. We estimate that we will provide dinner to 75–100 people daily.
We will also provide “take and go” breakfasts daily and need help with items that can be added to that menu. If you’d like to provide meals but can’t commit to 75–100, we will partner you with others so we end up with a combined total of 75–100.
Other current volunteer opportunities include manning the desk in the Welcome Center and lots of manual labor. Once June 1 arrives, the opportunities will expand. If you are interested in helping out in any way, please check out our page on VolunteerSpot at: http://vols.pt/fFYRnL.
If you’d like to donate items, our wish list is posted on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GRACEMarketplace.
We encourage you to stop by and check us out. We will be holding a meeting of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry on Wednesday, May 21 at 9 am. Following the meeting, we will conduct tours of the campus. We’re located at 2845 NE 39th Avenue and hope to see you then. D