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Tallahassee shelter helps hundreds of unhoused neighbors every day; why they're expecting even more soon

Numbers have gone from about 230 a night on average to 400+ on some days
Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-20 17:43:30-04
  • The Kearney Center in Tallahassee said the number of people they help has gone from about 230 a night on average to upward of 400 on some days.
  • Now that a new law prohibiting sleeping on public property is set to go into effect, shelter leaders are anticipating even more people asking for help.
  • Watch the video above to see what's driving demand.


Travel along Thomasville Road and Kerry Forrest parkway like I do and chance are, you've seen the unhoused neighbors who live here. I'm Kendall Brandt your Northeast Tallahassee neighborhood reporter. Governor Ron DeSantis just signed a bill into law what could impact the unhoused across the state. I'm taking a closer look at what it means for my neighborhood.

Sonya Wilson works every day at the Kearney Center to help people facing homelessness at the only shelter in Tallahassee. "We truly take a holistic approach and it's a one stop shop." But she says some things have changed since legislation banning camping on public property was introduced.

"Since this was introduced that this was a potential, we have seen an increase just in the last six months."
- Sonya Wilson

She says there numbers have gone from about 230 a night on average to upward of 400 on some days.

Governor DeSantis signed the bill into law Wednesday. It bans camping on public property.

Neighbors could sue the county if they allow people to sleep on sidewalks or other public areas.


Florida homeless to be banned from sleeping in public spaces under DeSantis-backed law

Wilson says they're preparing for even more people to come into their doors once it goes into effect. "Oh, absolutely."

The way they are addressing that need: through partnerships with the county and sheriff's office. I asked Leon County leaders how they are responding to this new state law. They told me in a statement that they are providing more services to aid in fighting homelessness. However, they did tell me camping on public property is already not allowed in Leon County.

Look at this map.

Right now, there are over 40 camps around Leon County where people have made their own shelter.

Wilson says they are working on helping to give those people a space in their shelter. "We are definitely going to have to have some capacity building and we are already working on doing that."

But she says help from groups like the sheriff's office outreach team, the county and neighbors is essential.

"Everybody working together and it's going to take a community to make this happen."

The newly signed bill goes into effect on October 1.