At Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, the commissioners discussed Tallahassee’s increasing homelessness problem. The issue has recently been spotlighted by the controversial opening of a temporary shelter on Mahan Drive run by City Walk Urban Mission.
Multiple citizens made public comments on the Mahan shelter at the meeting, both supporting and opposing the shelter. Common concerns voiced by residents of the Mahan Drive area have included registered sex offenders residing within the shelter, the safety of surrounding neighborhoods and decreased property values.
Big Bend Continuum of Care (BBCoC) Executive Director Amanda Wander gave a presentation on how the BBCoC addresses homelessness, including educating the community, gathering data on homelessness and working with homeless service providers.
Following the presentation, the commissioners commented on the current homelessness crisis.
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, the City Commission’s representative to the BBCoC, said, “We don’t have enough units to place homeless people in to get them to a permanent solution.”
“Our focus has to be on helping the people, all people, not just homeless people,” she said.
Commissioner Curtis Richardson emphasized finding a humane solution to the homelessness problem. He also said it is not a government issue and that community partners need to work together to find solutions.
“Government, I don’t think, can solve this alone. We don’t have the resources to solve it,” he said. “I think that if we come together, all of our partners that are concerned about this issue, that we can begin to get our arms around it, but it’s not going to be solved overnight.”
City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow added that there is “no magic wand that’s going to solve the problem.” Matlow repeatedly argued that local government has to get ahead of the problem. He urged people to show sympathy to those who are homeless.
He also stated that he understands why neighborhoods are concerned about the situation and stated that criminal offenses and behavior that crosses the line should not be tolerated.
According to the meeting agenda, the City of Tallahassee “does not provide direct services to homeless individuals” but works with agencies and provides approximately $3.8 million in financial support for homelessness prevention, outreach and more. By 2025, the City aims to achieve “functional zero” homelessness.
City Walk’s permit is slated for discussion by the Development Review Committee on March 8.