Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said he is not heartless when it comes to homeless people. He just wants them out of Ocala’s downtown so others can visit the shops and restaurants without being harassed by panhandlers who, he contends, sometimes become aggressive.
Guinn said he has reached out personally to down-and-out individuals outside Starbucks, his regular haunt, and has captained the development of Open Arms Village, a shelter for homeless men and women at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church off Northeast Eighth Road that is inching toward becoming a reality.
Certainly the mayor does not need to be concerned with homeless issues. He simply could busy himself with his ceremonial duties: smiling during ribbon cuttings, welcoming dignitaries, promoting the city, shaking hands and kissing babies. But he wants to see Ocala’s downtown revitalization take hold and has adopted for himself the task of trying to rid the downtown of the homeless people who congregate there.