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Kearney Service Center Officially Opens Its Doors to Tallahassee's Homeless

Matthew Seeger

A much-anticipated facility to aid Tallahassee’s homeless population had its ribbon cutting ceremony today. The shelter is one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

A crowd of almost 500 people applauded at the unveiling of “The Kearney Center,” named in honor of Mainline Information Systems CEO Rick Kearney, the man who got the ball rolling. Some clapped in approval, others in relief.

It was made clear by staff and supporters alike that the huge, state-of-the-art facility is more than just a mere homeless shelter. Jacob Reiter, Executive Director of “The Shelter” says the “Comprehensive Emergency Service Center” is the product of a community-based effort.

“We have all different agencies from the community that are working to address homelessness, help people move into housing, under one roof. And so, it streamlines the process for somebody experiencing homelessness to get them back into housing quicker and more efficiently,” Reiter said.

Gail Stansberry-Ziffer, another supporter of the center and wife of Tallahassee city commissioner Gil Ziffer, says the facility will provide homeless people with more than just a bed. They’ll get the resources they need to get their lives back on track.

“It’s really difficult to get somebody their identification, to get them into the resources, I mean, all of these things are overwhelming when you’ve lived on the street for a long time,” says Stansberry-Ziffer.

The facility was embraced with the most enthusiasm by people who are homeless, who came to the unveiling to see it for themselves. One of them is a man who calls himself Minister Callen. He says he and his service dog aren’t technically homeless, just displaced. Even so, he sees the center’s potential and expresses his approval with a smile.

“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful what they’re doing here,” Callen said. “Have you seen the showers? Hotels don’t even have showers like that! It’s amazing, it’s wonderful what people are doing!”

Callen isn’t just enchanted by the conveniences and resources. He admires the team effort that is already going into making the facility live up to the reputation that the staff and supporters wanted it to have.

“The best thing is the show of force that all of the volunteers have, that all the VA representatives have, that all the Homeless Coalition people have, and everybody’s coming together just for this one shelter right here,” Callen said.

And despite the Herculean effort, like any homeless center, it needs donations and volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Considering the shelter was designed to house up to 500 people a night, the more hands on deck, the better.

“Whatever your talent is,” says Stansberry-Ziffer, “if you give a little bit… if everyone gives a little bit, we can help solve the problem.”