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Homeless people in surrounding counties are traveling to Leon County; we're investigating why

Posted at 6:08 PM, Nov 13, 2023
  • The Leon County Sheriff's Office says homeless people are traveling to Leon County, which is why we see a large population on North Monroe Street.
  • Area organizations in those surrounding counties tell me it's because they are looking for specific services their neighborhoods cannot provide
  • Watch the video to find out why that is and what makes Leon County's approach to homeless unique

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Leon County is home to many unhoused people. In Northwest Tallahassee, you’ve likely seen many of them. I’ve been on the road for the past few days in Jefferson, Wakulla, Calhoun, and Liberty Counties finding out what services these areas have for the sheltered and why they look to Leon County for the ones they do not.

Captain Jimmy Goodman, from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, said the increase of homeless people is not just a Leon County concern.

"Shelterless people are traveling to Leon County from other surrounding counties, in search of better services," said Goodman.

I make calls to surrounding counties, including Leon, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor and Madison Counties. Area organizations explain how it works when they find homeless people in need of support.

Derek Causseaux is the director of the Calhoun-Liberty Ministry Center. He tells me he’s seen an uptick in the homeless population.

"Within the weeks, it’s easy to see five to 10 on the streets," said Causseaux.

Short-term resources are provided by their community, so they are finite.

"Right now, we’re able to put them up at two motels for no more than a week, according to what our finances look like at the time," said Causseaux.

He said they look further a field for more permanent options.

"We do partner with the sheriff’s office to take individuals to the homeless shelters in Leon County," said Causseaux.

This includes shelters like the Kearney Center. This is a service unique to Leon County, because we have a 24-hour comprehensive emergency center that provides social services, case management, and medical care.

Executive Director, Sonya Wilson, said they are working to organize resources to support the unhoused population in the Big Bend Counties.

A similar partnership with the Sheriff’s Office happens in Wakulla County, but there’s one difference. Jefferey Yarbrough, Public Information Officer of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office said, to his knowledge, homelessness is not a major issue. They have to focus their funds elsewhere. It's the same in Jefferson County.

"We are a fiscally constrained county, you know, which most of them around Tallahassee are. You know our funds are very limited, and we use them mainly for the law enforcement portion," said Sheriff Mac McNeil

That’s Sheriff Mac McNeill. He said the community that funds a voucher program through the Monticello Police Department that provides short-term, basic resources and shelter.

"They have a fund that they have set up, and so it’s all done through the goodwill of the people of Jefferson County," said McNeill.

Sheriff McNeil said they will work with surrounding sheriff offices to transport people to where they want to go. He says that’s often Leon County, because they have the services.

I collected too much information to condense the way all of these counties are helping their unhoused populations. So my next steps? Visiting each county and talking their community figures.