A month ago, Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor asked Rick Kearney to reopen the Kearney Center by April 1 amid push for vaccine priority.
Now the Kearney Center — Tallahassee’s official homeless shelter — has welcomed back 80 clients after a year of being closed due to COVID-19.
During the past year, the homeless transitioned more than 100 current clients to individual apartments and hotel rooms to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements on social distancing and spacing at least six feet apart.
Rick Kearney, founder, and CEO, said the modifications were intended to improve the safety and well-being of Tallahassee’s most vulnerable residents.
“Our clients are part of our family. Many of our clients are elderly, many have health issues, and all deserve the best this community has to offer. We especially thank Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Elder Care Services, and ALSCO Inc for helping us plan the continuation of health, food and linens as we provide our services at varied locations,” Kearney said during an interview with WCTV.
To provide a secure atmosphere for workers and clients, clear plastic barriers have been established throughout the building, among both computer stations and the welcome desk.
UV lamps were placed alongside the rooms to kill germs and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, and air filters are located in close proximity.
Audra Peoples, the shelter’s communication director, said the renovations were necessary.
“While the Kearney Center shut down for the year, the building underwent renovations from the money the city commission provided to us. We made furniture improvements, mechanical renovations, architecture renovations per CDC guidelines,” Peoples said.
The Kearney Center and the Florida Department of Health Leon County office are working to persuade Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to provide people experiencing homelessness and workers in the next executive order for vaccine accessibility.
Many of the vaccines have already been provided to the clients by the Bond Community Health Center. Vaccines were additionally provided to Kearney Center clients by Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
The Kearney Center’s mission is to provide the vaccine to the bulk of its clients to make the shelter as accessible as possible.
Addis Miller, a client at the Kearney Center, said he is at ease and added that the shelter has done an excellent job upholding the CDC requirements.
“The workers at the Kearney Center made me feel right at home. As I first entered the shelter, they took my temperature, gave me an extra mask, and walked me through the security checker to make sure I didn’t have any dangerous stuff on me. The shelter is tidy and spacious; it doesn’t get any better,” Miller said.