homelessness

The Accent via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/theaccent/4030077886/

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is filing suit against a ban on panhandling in downtown Pensacola. The organization argues the rule is a threat to first amendment free speech.

Advocates for the homeless are planning to gather in Tallahassee next month to protest steep budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and Governor Rick Scott.

Iriss Photo Collection/ flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/openlx/

Communities across the country are implementing a 'Housing First' model as a new approach to fight homelessness. Some local officials want to bring the program to Leon County.

Michael Coghlan/ flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/8035396680/

At the heart of modern political debates is the role and size of government: to expand or regulate, support or restrict. And for many, the crux of the issue is how government should handle the disadvantaged. This week, Florida lawmakers considered two sides of the same coin: public assistance.

The city opened a new homeless shelter on Municipal Way last spring, leaving behind the downtown location that served the community for decades. The new Kearney Center brings together housing, social services and healthcare all under the same roof. But some say the new facility is bringing old problems to a new location.

UnhousedHumanity.org

Tallahassee and Leon County Social Service agencies are focusing on helping homeless people. And they’re getting some help from a new startup called Unhoused Humanity.  For the creator of the organization, the issue of homelessness, hits home.

Perspectives: Homeless Care Continuum

Jul 3, 2014

The Capital City has begun mustering all available public and private resources to combat homelessness in the area.  The new Continuum of Care board will oversee this effort and we hear from some of its principals: Leon County Commission Chair Kristin Dozier; Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer; Big Bend Homeless Coalition Executive Director Susan Pourciau; Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Representative Debie Leonard; and United Way of the Big Bend Executive Director Heather Mitchell.

Vacant, Charred Hotel To Be Demolished

May 8, 2014
R.Benk / WFSU-News

Almost exactly four months after Tallahassee firefighters last quelled the flames of a hotel fire; the inn’s owner has decided to sign off on its demolition.

First responders were called to a fire at the same abandoned hotel close to Interstate 10 three times last February. Although the exact cause of the blazes remains unknown, fire officials originally theorized that since the motel’s utilities had already been shut off, the fire was most likely a result of vagrants trying to keep warm during a cold snap.

Danielle Spraggs

A bill making it easier for local homeless coalitions to receive state funding passed another hurdle Thursday.   

Services for the homeless at the local level are managed by what are known as “continuums of care.”  An important source of funding for these agencies comes in the form of so-called Challenge Grants, which require a continuum of care to match the funds they receive from the state. 

Capital Report: 03-25-2014

Mar 25, 2014

Another school choice bill looks to be in trouble in the Florida Legislature. Lynn Hatter reports the Senate Education Committee has watered down a proposal that would have established a statewide contract for charter schools.

A bill aimed at making sure more kids don’t die from abuse or neglect under the care of the state’s foster care system is now advancing in the House. As Sascha Cordner reports, the latest plan to revamp the Florida Department of Children and Families builds on a recent investigative series by the Miami Herald.

Lawmakers Lobby Both Houses For More Homelessness Funding

Mar 25, 2014
A mural on the side of a Tallahassee homeless shelter.
Freestone Wilson / Flickr

As the Florida House prepares to begin budget negotiations, a pair of lawmakers is banding together to talk up the need for including more funding to combat homelessness in that budget. It’s the continuation of an effort that appeared to pass last year, only to meet with the governor’s veto pen.

Capital Report: 03-04-2014

Mar 4, 2014

As Florida Senate President Don Gaetz promised, his chamber passed several bills on the first day of session aimed at denying convicted sex offenders the chance to hurt children.  But, as Jessica Palombo reports, critics of the crackdown say it does nothing to prevent first-time offenses, which they say make up the majority of crimes against kids.

Homelessness Prevention Could Get Local Funding Source

Mar 4, 2014
A mural on the side of a Tallahassee homeless shelter.
Freestone Wilson / Flickr

The Florida Senate is considering allowing local governments more freedom to use tax revenue to combat homelessness.

The legislation is part of a triumvirate of homelessness bills from Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala. It allows local option sales taxes to be used for homelessness prevention efforts, but doesn’t allow local governments to exceed the one percent threshold they’re currently subject to – so if a county has already met its tax cap, there’s no additional funding available to combat homelessness.

Pair Of Florida Republicans File Bill To Help Homeless

Feb 20, 2014
Blaise Gainey

Homelessness eradication efforts would get more money under terms of a bill spearheaded by a pair of legislative Republicans. Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and Rep. Kathleen Peters’ (R-South Pasadena) bills would offer annual challenge grants to agencies. Latvala says the measure reestablishes funding the agencies once had access to.

“We start set about developing a bill to try to put more resources in the homeless arena, and were doing that by attempting to increase the challenge grants which used to be funded in the budget.” Latvala says.

Bad Weather Hampers Tallahassee Homeless Census

Jan 31, 2014
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Across the country this week, volunteers conducted what’s known as the point-in-time homelessness count. WFSU joined one Tallahassee group as they tried to find people living without shelter in Florida’s capital city.

At 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, about 30 volunteers huddled in a side office at the Big Bend Homeless Coalition cafeteria.

Outside it had just started pouring rain. One of the team leaders, Vicki Butler, had just come in from an all-day shift and she was about to go back out for the night shift.

R.Benk / WFSU-News

For fourteen years the Big Bend Homeless Coalition has hosted a day of service for the area’s homeless population, where homeless citizens can get healthcare, haircuts and a home-cooked meal. But, this year’s event featured a new way to help the homeless reconnect.

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition’s Stephanie Beckingham said Friday’s event was designed to function as a person’s first step out of homelessness, in part by helping those without one obtain an ID card.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families counts homeless individuals at the end of each January.  They released their figures for 2013 this week, but they may offer more questions than answers.

Perspectives: Homelessness

Jun 14, 2013

The face of homelessness is changing and that presents new challenges for those trying to keep up with the demand for services. An expert panel responds to the issue: Big Bend Homeless Coalition Executive Director Susan Pourciau; Refuge House Executive Director Meg Baldwin; Renaissance Center Director Chuck White; and the present and past directors of The Shelter, Jacob Reiter and Mel Eby.

 

The Shelter

Two months after an undercover woman alleged mistreatment at a Tallahassee homeless shelter, consultants are releasing recommendations for how to improve management and operations there. The suggestions include relocating and offering more services.

The report concludes an investigation stemming from a Tallahassee Grapevine blog post in February alleging the Tallahassee-Leon Shelter staff mistreated residents. The allegations included a staffer asking female residents for sex. A police investigation has cleared shelter staff of any criminal wrongdoing.

The number of homeless people in Leon County has risen about 36 percent in one year. That’s according to a preliminary report the Big Bend Homeless Coalition released on Friday. And community leaders are pledging to reverse the trend.

The report comes after volunteers walked the woods, streets and shelters this week. After interviewing more than 700 homeless people, they estimate more than 1,000 live in Leon County. Big Bend Homeless Coalition Executive Director Susan Pourciau says, a quarter of them are not in shelters.

The plight of homeless military veterans in the U.S. keeps growing, but a local group is planning a major effort in Tallahassee a few months from now to help this area’s homeless vets achieve more normal lives.

Joe West tells the story of a veteran on the edge who almost lost everything.

“That veteran did not end up on the street because other veterans stuck out their hands and prevented him from going there when they found out about it.  He had fallen through the cracks of the programs that we have available.  I am that veteran.” 

Band members
Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Several local musical acts are slated to perform at the city of Tallahassee’s July Fourth celebration at Tom Brown Park Wednesday. One of those bands is made up of former and current homeless shelter residents, and they look forward to playing for what they expect to be their biggest crowd yet.