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Homeless Shelter Relocation, New Services, Staff Changes Coming, After Report

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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.

Heather Mitchell, president of the Shelter’s main funder, United Way of the Big Bend, said the report her group commissioned from University of Central Florida consultants confirmed what the board of directors already thought.

“I think we all had a very good idea about what direction we should go in. This really helps cement that we are on the right path, we were thinking in the right vein,” she said. “And now this is sort of the jump-starter to get us moving in that direction.”

The report makes 12 suggestions, including adding a mental health specialist to the staff and finding a new, bigger location, with an overall goal of getting people back to self-reliance.

The Shelter on West Tennessee Street houses up to 250 men, women and children every night. Mitchell said, the goal, moving forward, is to provide a better path out of homelessness.

“If people are homeless, you have to figure out why. Are there mental health awareness services that need to be delivered? Do they need job skills training? Is there a substance abuse issue that we need to talk about? You have to get to the crux of what landed them there,” she said.

That could mean adding services that aren’t available now. And working with other nonprofit agencies and local government officials more collaboratively. She said, Tallahassee’s homeless population will definitely see a difference in their Shelter experience.

“I think they’re going to see a stronger continuum of care. And I think the Shelter will have such a bigger role to play in that than they’ve ever had before,” she said.

Amidst the investigation, Shelter executive director Mel Eby retired at the end of March after 25 years. And further staff changes are expected to be announced soon.

Mitchell said, the search for a new location is just beginning. Meanwhile, the Shelter continues to operate.