Homeless affecting North Monroe businesses

Traffic traveling down North Monroe Street. Photo courtesy the inlander

North Monroe Street businesses are raising concerns about the growing homeless population and its effects on stores in the surrounding area.

As winter approaches, there has been an increase in the number of homeless people looking for better shelter from the colder weather.

There are 10 homeless shelters in Tallahassee and the closest one to North Monroe Street is Chelsea House. While this location has not seen much business, the only other nonprofit shelter is 15 minutes away, leaving the locals feeling vulnerable.

Nicky Xavier, an assistant manager at Taco Bell, said that her store is sometimes in a state of disarray from the presence of homeless individuals. Xavier also said that the store now receives bad reviews and has encountered a decline in customers and sales.

“Homeless individuals have a negative impact on our establishment … they often leave the restaurant in a state of disarray, approach customers for food and money, and rummage through our garbage,” Xavier told the Famuan. “These behaviors have led to an increase in negative reviews and a loss in sales due to the lack of customers wanting to come in the actual store.”

According to talgov.com, the city has paired with Big Bend Continuum of Care to combat homelessness by providing housing programs and vouchers to any of their shelters. The city also established a homelessness dashboard that gets updated monthly with the latest information about the homeless population.

Many businesses, like Taco Bell, have strict policies on how they manage disturbances caused by this demographic. USA Today reported an incident where a local Taco Bell was accused of kicking out a customer who bought food for a group of homeless people in 2019.

Though, the company made claims to be involved in community engagement as a response to the incident, they still upheld their original policy.

Tasha Miller, a sales clerk at the local convenience store, said that she has witnessed an influx in homeless bodies around the property. Miller also said she typically allows them to exist peacefully to prevent any altercations.

“I’ve been seeing a lot more homeless people around here compared to when I started [working] here,” Miller said. “I just give them what they ask for, in case they try to get hostile or angry at me.”

Other stores around North Monroe Street have shared concerns about the initiatives that are being taken to regain control over this rising population. The city has online services to assist those in housing and a 24-hour hotline for more information and assistance.