The capital of Florida is facing an undeniable crisis of underserving a community of local citizens that are in need of better resources. With only one homeless shelter that is overcrowded and leaves many participants out in the cold after the 5 p.m. cut-off, the need for more resources is essential.
Our homeless population in the Tallahassee area seems to be growing daily. On the corner of West Pensacola and Dupree you can find groups of people scattered about at all times of the day. What looks like a busy street corner is really an outpour of homeless individuals from a building further up the road known as The Kearney Center.
With a 5 p.m. cut-off time and limited space, The Kearney Center can be an overcrowded and overwhelming place to be for individuals already in a crisis. Lines form out the door daily with people in need looking for a place to lay their head. Most individuals have no family or support system; others are checking in with their family and down on their luck.
The Kearney Center is a transitional program that tries to help people in dire need find more stable living conditions.
“We have case managers who work with individuals on a daily basis to assist them with attaining more stable housing,” the director of The Kearney Center, Jacob Reiter, said. “We also give out three meals a day, which accumulates to over 900 meals a day that we serve.”
The Kearney Center also has a clinic operation, with nurses in the evening to provide basic medical services such as helping fill prescription medications and addressing their health concerns. There is even a dental office that provides dental services to clients as well.
Unfortunately, when The Kearney Center reaches capacity that is when the homeless population must look to alternatives for a temporary place to stay. This typically falls on the local hospitals, particularly the mental health and detox facility The Apalachee Center.
“When the weather is bad such as heavy rain or cold air is when we get a large influx of homeless people to come in,” Apalachee Center counselor Grayson Willis said. “We do get some that do have a mental health or detox issue that needs to be addressed and qualifies for admission, but a lot of other times, the criteria isn’t met and we unfortunately have to send them out the door.”
There are programs such as the Rapid Rehousing Program through the Big Bend Homeless Coalition that assist people dealing with homelessness with move-in costs toward a new rental property or apartment if approved. However, programs like this only receive a certain amount of funds to assist people who apply. Once again a very large population of people is underserved.
“Because we are a not-for-profit organization, we rely solely on grants and donations to assist the community, the amount of need and amount of assistance we can give out just doesn’t equal to each other,” Rapid Re-housing coordinator Kim Ladner said.
The need for stronger resources is severe. If the City of Tallahassee doesn’t find a suitable solution soon, the issue will continue to worsen.