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LCSO, Big Bend Continuum of Care to adjust engagement with homeless

Program follows initiatives in Broward, Sarasota counties
Posted at 10:36 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 22:36:41-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County is introducing a new way to address homelessness in the community.

The Big Bend Continuum of Care and the Leon County Sheriff's Office are working together to launch the HOST initiative.

"You've indicated today that we cannot solve homelessness with a law enforcement response. That is an extraordinary phrase," Leon County commissioner Bill Proctor said.

Now the Leon County Sheriff's Office taking a different approach to homelessness.

On Monday, they'll launch the Homeless Outreach Street Team or HOST.

"The purpose of the sheriff's initiative with the host deputies is to provide enhanced law enforcement to provide services and resources knowledge and training to those unsheltered individuals," Argatha Gilmore, Leon County assistant sheriff said.

For now, two deputies have been trained to be HOST deputies.

"We will educate the unsheltered individuals, we will encourage them to take the services. However, if the education and encouraging does not do not work, the host deputies they are prepared to look at the circumstances; develop probable cause if needed, and then move forward with criminal enforcement," Gilmore said.

It's one of many new ideas from local leaders.

Last July, city and county commissioners approved $6.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to help assistant agencies like the Big Bend Continuum of Care launch programs like HOST.

A study last summer found 136 unsheltered people living in makeshift camps or on the street in Tallahassee, and 283 sheltered people living in homeless shelters.

Over the next six months, LCSO and the Continuum of Care will study how effective HOST is before moving forward with an expansion.