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New funding to help address homelessness in Leon County

Posted at 11:26 AM, Sep 14, 2022

LEON COUNTY, FLa. — Leon County Commissioners approved new funding that will help those experiencing homelessness in our community.

“I’m thankful for them supporting me and my kids because we could’ve been anywhere," said Janie Mcaffee, who has been at Big Bend Homeless Coalition's Hope Community for 2 ½ months now with her kids.

Mcaffee's story is one that's being heard a lot more these days from the hundreds of people without a place to call home in Leon County.

Marie Vandenberg is the program director for Big Bend Homeless Coalition’s HOPE Community, an emergency shelter for families who are experiencing homelessness.

Right now, they're seeing an increase in the number of people in need of a place to stay.

“What I’ve seen in the past 3 to 6 months is nothing that I’ve seen before. I’ve been here about 10 years, and we’ve never had walk-ins, we’ve never had the number of people on our waiting list,” said Vandenberg.

Vandenberg said that in the last 3 months they've had 311 people request assistance, up 45% from last year. She said it’s difficult on her and her staff to not have the resources to help everyone who come through their door. “It is an emotional strain on staff who are dealing with this overwhelming need and really not being able to do anything about it,” said Vandenberg.

A $2 million Community Human Services Partnership Grant could help alleviate some of that strain.

Executive Director of the Big Bend Continuum of Care Johanna Coleman said that money will help offer services to people who are at risk for homelessness, rapid rehousing, and emergency shelters.

She said over $848,000 of the grant will help organizations like Hope Community have funding to keep serve those facing housing insecurity. “Without assistance, we don’t have any other resources. So this helps us pad our resources,” said Coleman.

These same resources have been able to help people like Mcaffee.

Mcaffee doesn’t know where she would be without this help. "We could’ve been in our car and everything," said Mcaffee. "Thanks to HOPE for them opening up their doors to us.”

The funding for this grant will begin October 1.