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Homeless clinic finds a home



A year ago, administrators of the Health Care Center for the Homeless were planning to build a brand-new, two-story clinic in Parramore, where they'd spent $285,000 for a vacant lot at Westmoreland Drive and Church Street. (A Precarious Prescription, Sept. 6, 2001).

Apparently they were under the impression that Orlando wouldn't enforce a 1999 rule stating that agencies that primarily benefit the homeless cannot expand, relocate or move into Parramore, a low-income neighborhood west of downtown. Administrators convinced the city council that the clinic was indeed medical in nature, and not dedicated to providing housing or counseling to the homeless.

But Parramore property owners complained and the issue wound up in the hands of a city-appointed hearing officer. Instead of going through with the hearing, however, clinic administrators simply found another building elsewhere. Last week they closed on a piece of property at West Robinson Street and Orange Blossom Trail, formerly occupied by a pest control company.

The 9,000-square-foot building more than triples the center's space, allowing volunteer doctors and dentists who work there to see as many as 10,000 patients a year.

"Our other clinic was so small," says the center's president, Paul McGlone, "that we had to turn away volunteers as well as patients."

The new building sits in an industrial area, several doors down from The Parliament House nightclub and adjacent to a vacant lot. It should be far enough from residential areas to prevent problems.

In any event, McGlone says he's taking precautions to ensure that the clinic doesn't interfere with nearby businesses. "The design of the waiting room will be large enough so that people will not have to wait outside," he says.

McGlone couldn't say when the clinic would be opened. He's halfway through a $3 million campaign to raise money to remodel the building. "Based on the design, the accessibility to the bus route and the shelters, it's the best spot for us," he says.