By Caroline Nickerson, Editorial Assistant
On Monday, December 12, 2016, Michael L. Good, M.D., Dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine, along with faculty and staff of the University of Florida Department of Psychiatry, visited GRACE Marketplace for an hour-long tour to learn more about its’ services. GRACE is an acronym for “Gainesville Regional Alachua County Empowerment.” Representing the Department of Psychiatry were Regina Bussing, M.D., Chair; Jacqueline Hobbs, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair for Education and Residency Training Director; Dr. Christopher Ong, Co-chief Resident; Dr. Ana Turner, Adjunct Assistant Professor; Priscilla Spence, Administrative Assistant to Chair; and Caroline Nickerson, Editorial Assistant.
A collaboration between the city of Gainesville and Alachua county, GRACE Marketplace opened its doors in the May of 2014 to address homelessness in the Gainesville community and its surrounding areas. Originally, GRACE was intended to be part of a ten-year plan to end homelessness in Gainesville. Now GRACE is part of a North Central Florida Continuum of Care program to transition to permanent housing options.
GRACE is a campus-style housing site that also offers services, including laundry, meals, restrooms/showers, transportation and educational programs, to individuals who do not live on the site. According to a WUFT article from early 2016, it costs over $2 million to fund GRACE for a year.
The tour, led by GRACE operations director Jon DeCarmine, Helping Hands Clinic Manager Brendan Shortley and GRACE development director Karen Slevin, went through a cold weather sleeping area, a recreation room, the dining area and kitchen, a classroom-type multipurpose area, the showers and a group sleeping area with bunk beds.
GRACE has gender-segregated sleeping areas, as well as a sleeping area for veterans. The neighboring tent city, Dignity Village, is not gender-segregated, and pets are allowed. Residents have more autonomy living outside in Dignity Village, but they are able to access services offered at GRACE. Brendan Shortley emphasized that GRACE did not name Dignity Village; its residents did. “One day, they just put a sign up that read ‘Dignity Village,’” Shortley said.
Many GRACE residents have an acute need for psychiatric care. Karen Slevin said that patients at GRACE can have a difficult time accessing care outside of certain hours. GRACE is working towards have a variety of services that can be offered from within GRACE. Jon DeCarmine, in the final leg of the tour, voiced hope for more academic collaborations between GRACE and the University of Florida. In fields like public health, “There are hundreds of masters’ theses that could be written about GRACE,” said DeCarmine.
To learn more about GRACE Marketplace visit their website at http://gracemarketplace.org/