At the end of Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor John Dailey commented on the issue of homelessness in Tallahassee, which has been spotlighted recently due to controversy surrounding a temporary homeless shelter on Mahan Drive.
“We are at a crisis situation in this community, and we must address what is going on with those that are experiencing homelessness not only with service provided towards them but how it is impacting our community as a whole,” Dailey said. “It is not acceptable.”
Dailey said he does not support the temporary homeless shelter on Mahan Drive that is currently being run by City Walk Urban Mission. The shelter, which is located at 1709 Mahan Drive, formed after other area emergency shelters decreased their capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, residents of the Mahan Drive area have voiced concerns about the safety of the shelter.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would shut it down immediately,” Dailey said.
City Manager Reese Goad said that the temporary shelter is currently not in compliance with City codes, and City staff has given City Walk until Feb. 4 to bring it into compliance. He said if City Walk does not seek compliance, the City will take action to shut down the shelter.
City Walk Executive Director Renee Miller previously told Tallahassee Reports that City Walk has procured a project manager to bring the shelter up to code.
Dailey said he has “grave personal concerns” over the City Walk due to the fact that the shelter is housing a registered sex offender near a neighborhood and preschool. Residents of the area have echoed these concerns.
“We have got to do everything in our power, in my personal opinion, to relocate if not completely shut down this particular homeless shelter,” Dailey said.
He also mentioned that Tallahassee’s homeless population has been migrating into residential neighborhoods, causing residents to feel “extremely uncomfortable and fearful.”
“It is getting to the point where every day we are fielding calls about solicitation in neighborhoods, about aggressive panhandling, which is illegal, knocking on doors in neighborhoods,” he said.
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, who serves on the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, emphasized solving the problem humanely and with empathy. She also said the City should work with the County to address the homeless problem.
On Wednesday morning, ahead of the City Commission meeting, Dailey appeared on the Preston Scott Show and said he believes that the majority of the City Commission agrees with him that the City needs a proactive plan to deal with homelessness.
“We are putting together our plan, and we’re going to be very careful and methodical,” Dailey said. “We want to do it in a way that we treat people with decency and respect.”