2020 was a year of struggle, challenge, and - above all - innovation at GRACE. Our campus has been on a voluntary quarantine since March. We canceled fundraising events and suspended all volunteer programs, including meal groups. Financially, this represented a loss of more than $50,000 in community support each month. At the same time, we launched new campaigns, built on existing partnerships, and through it all, delivered and expanded key services to thousands of people in crisis.
With the help of our donors, volunteers, and our community partners, GRACE has emerged stronger than ever. So far this year, we’ve ended homelessness for 343 people and provided more than 124,000 crisis services, including over 112,000 meals. We’ve doubled the size of our permanent housing programs, and established GRACE as the first pet-friendly low-barrier shelter in North Florida.
Thanks to the GRACE Healthcare Corp, UF Mobile Outreach Clinic and the Alachua County Medical Reserve Corps, we’ve offered twice-weekly COVID testing since March. We partnered with the City and County to move 26 of our most vulnerable shelter guests into hotels to keep them safe and moved every one of them into permanent housing within 30 days. To date, we’ve had eight confirmed positive cases on our campus to date, with no community spread among shelter guests.
This year, we’ve established a national best practice for how communities address homeless encampments. We’ve moved more than 100 former residents of Dignity Village into housing, and The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has recognized the project as part of its Housing Not Handcuffs campaign. We will present our model at the Florida Coalition to End Homelessness annual conference in Spring 2021.
At a time when we’ve seen many of our local, state, and national institutions struggle, GRACE has emerged as a leader in the nonprofit community. With an ambitious goal of not managing, but actually ending homelessness, GRACE has raised the bar for how we approach caring for the most vulnerable members of our community.
We’re incredibly proud of GRACE’s response to the first wave of the pandemic. But we know we’re still closer to the beginning of this than we are the end. As we prepare for what’s next, GRACE has proven we can respond to our community’s most critical needs. But we couldn’t have done it without you as a part of the team.
We wake up every day, and go to sleep every night, thinking of what we can do to be the very best choice for the people we serve, our partners, our team, our volunteers, and donors. We’re honored to have the opportunity to do this work for our community, and we thank you for joining us on this mission. Thank you!
Executive Director, GRACE