Kearney Center remains closed due to pandemic

Kearney Center. Photo by Kayla Johnson

While many Americans have faced hardships during the global pandemic that we are still experiencing. But there is a group of people who have it even harder — the homeless. 

The Kearney Center located on Tallahassee’s west side is a faith-based non-profit organization. It helps aid the homeless in the eight-county Big Bend region. It is considered a one-stop shop for the less fortunate. 

The center also provides 24- hour comprehensive emergency assistance to families and individuals who have fallen upon financial hardship. It offers a range of services to help their clients become self-sufficient.

Because of COVID-19, the Kearney Center was forced to close its doors late March in order to comply with the safety regulations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In doing so, a total of 370 clients were relocated. The Kearney Center is believed to be the first shelter in the nation to proactively relocate its clients in a timely manner during the pandemic.

Audra Peoples works as head of the communications department with the Kearney Center and was able to give insight on how it is dealing with the pandemic. she 

“In late March we moved our clients in waves to hotels, motels and apartments but this took several weeks,” Peoples said in a phone interview. “By the end of April all of them were relocated.” 

Tallahassee homeless shelter remains empty during COVID-19 pandemic
Photo by Kayla Johnson

An employee from the facility who declined to be identified said that to properly follow the CDC’s guidelines the Kearney Center is undergoing renovations in preparation for the return of their clients but will operate at a lower capacity in the future. No specific time frame was given indicating when they planned on having the clients return to the Kearney Center.

Only staff are permitted to be at the Kearney Center until renovations are completed and new procedures are put into effect. But there has not been an indication of when any of this will take place until a statement is given by the chairman of the board.

In an article published in late march on WXTL-TV in Tallahassee, Rick Kearney, the founder of the center, said, “We especially thank Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Elder Care Services and ALSCO Inc. for helping us to plan continuation of health, food and linens as we provide our services at varied locations.”

Management at various local hotels declined to confirm or deny whether they were sheltering Kearney Center clients.