| Guest columnist
I’d like to address a story published last month, “Homeless congregating downtown since camp closure.” Specifically I’d like to address people within our community that believe that increasing the visibility of people living on the streets will solve our homeless problem.
I am the owner of Your CBD Store Gainesville, located just off the corner of 13th Street and University Avenue. We have been open for almost a year and are very close to being forced to shut our doors.
It is a miracle that we were able to survive all of the closures due to COVID, only to be shut down due to the response of our customers regarding the heavy presence of homeless people around our store. There hasn’t been a day this year that we have not arrived at work and opened our front door to trash, urine, feces, vomit, broken bottles, dirty linens and blankets, our signs ripped down and destroyed, and two to five people sleeping. I promise you, this list is endless.
I have more than 500 pictures and videos documenting this. I also have communication from countless customers complaining and refusing to come back to our store until we have fixed this problem.
But that’s not all. Multiple times a week homeless people walk into our store requesting money, food, water, samples — or want to watch TV. Oftentimes they interrupt us with customers and are very pushy.
More times than I can count, our paying customers have walked right out of the door as we try to resolve the situation. They place their hands and arms on the walls leaving dark stains and smudge marks. We’ve had to paint over the stains 14 times since we’ve opened
As previously mentioned, we have countless regular customers who refuse to come to our store any longer. We now ship or deliver directly to those people for free and that has caused us to incur a significant additional expense. Our rent at this current location is almost $4,000 a month, including Common Area Maintenance charges. With five years to go in our lease and the steady decline in customers, we can no longer afford to keep our business open downtown.
We are completely powerless over this problem as our landlord states there’s nothing he can do. Our only option is to call the Gainesville Police Department and institute a no trespass order for these people. We have done this more than 30 times and it is not done one bit of good, largely due to the inability to enforce this order due to lack of personal identification or proof of previous trespass orders.
I had several employees resign because they were literally in fear of many of the people that camp outside of the store. I have video and pictures of them screaming and making threats while trying to pull the front door open as my staff attempts to lock it.
I don’t claim to know what the answer to this problem is. What I can say for sure is that it is incredibly disheartening that there are people that believe that the homeless problem being back downtown is a good thing. I would venture to imagine they aren’t operating a small business downtown or terrified they are going to lose everything they’ve worked so hard for.
Dr. Christina Oliva is executive medical director of Your CBD Store.