Commissioners visit site of new homeless center

The City’s biggest effort to combat homelessness is almost complete. On Wednesday, three Tallahassee commissioners toured the nearly finished Comprehensive Emergency Services Center.

The center can house up to 390 people at a time, but they are only expecting about 240 in the beginning.

The center also includes living room areas, wheelchair-accessible shower stalls with sitting benches and a triage for medical care & mental health services provided by local partners.

Commissioners Bryan Desloge, John Dailey and Bill Proctor visited the facility to get a scope of the building. Chuck White, project director, led the tour with Rick Kearney who is the benefactor of the center.

“This is really like taking it to the next level,” Karney said. “It’s really to provide dignity for homeless people, for people who need jobs and for people who don’t have transportation. They have a place they can come to.”

The center is set for a grand opening on April 2, and is close to the jail on Municipal Way.

Food and dining services will be provided by various partners that include Publix and the Florida State University Culinary School.

“They make all the difference in the world,” Desloge said. “Government can’t do it all. The combination working together is spectacular and I think we can make a difference.”

Both White and Karney stressed the “home” feeling they hoped the center would have. The design includes 18 different colors and artwork on display throughout the facility.

“I’m very impressed. I think it’s a wonderful facility and can't wait to see a finished product,” said Dailey while he toured the facility. “Big windows, natural light. It’s designed very well. It doesn’t feel institutionalized. It feels more personal.”

The facility also houses a one of a kind hot room designed to reach 145 degrees and kill any bedbugs attached to the clothes and linens of visitors.

Bedbugs are common when dealing with homelessness but can be killed at 120 degrees in 20 minutes. The center has chosen to go the extra mile with 40 minutes cycles and a higher temperature.

“We set out to build a comprehensive center,” White said. “We wanted a center that addressed homelessness and the issues that caused homelessness all in one place.”

Commissioner Proctor says he was left “with his heart filled” after the tour.

“What we seen today is a heart transforming experience. The services that will be offered to the homeless, those in the wilderness so to speak, is a beacon light where people can go to find stability, comfort, shelter, cleanliness, and safety. That means so much,” Proctor said.

The 36,000-square-foot, $7-million facility is not schedule to open until a week after the grand opening.