Evolving Kearney Center a valuable resource

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The Kearney Center is determined to reduce the homeless population in Leon County.

The local one-stop shop applies numerous strategies in order to transition displaced individuals into a more permanent environment. The center, located at 2650 Municipal Way, has been in operation at its current location since 2015, and has become a valuable resource for community relations.

Vicki Butler has been the director of the Kearny Center since March 1, 2022. Butler said certain aspects in the center’s programs needed to be modified for an ever changing environment.

“Serving the homeless is an honor,” Butler said. “My team and I wanted to be a part of the training and the cultural change that continues to allow us to maintain stability in the community.”

The changes Butler addressed consisted of various programs and initiatives including creating a dedicated homeless outreach team, which gives supplies and sleeping bags to individuals in homeless camps. In addition to outreach efforts, Butler said other actions have been taken that allowed 109 documented individuals to be assisted and housed in 2022 alone. An additional 159 people were able to get stable housing by other measures provided through the center.

Destiny Rogers has been interning with the Kearny Center for a month and said she sees the impact of the efforts the center provides every day.

“I see the way clients evolve and adapt through the center, and it is honestly such a wholesome experience transforming alongside others.”

Local displaced individuals, like Tyrone Watts, said the center has changed for the better in recent years. Watts, 65 and disabled, wanted the community to understand how much better homelessness has gotten since the center has made continuous improvements in recent years.

“It used to be really bad man and I have been on the streets and in and out of there for years,” Watts said. “[The Kearny Center] has really made it its mission to be a place to go when you have nothing to turn to.”

Watts said that he is like hundreds of others in Leon County who are in complicated situations without a permanent agenda or residence.

“Kearny has always been there with a hot plate and a blanket, and they try to help the best ways they can do.”

Brigjette Brown has been working with the Kearny Center for four years and said the transition period within the homeless population has substantially gotten better in recent years.

“When [clients] transition out of homelessness in a fast and efficient way, it really warms my heart to see how effective our efforts have become,” Brown said. “Comparing to our earlier years, you can really see how far our strides have come.”