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"Beyond stretched" - Why the Kearney Center is working to expand their network to manage pressures

Posted at 5:33 PM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 17:33:24-04
  • Our ABC 27 coverage about shelterless people traveling to Leon County for services helped prompt the Kearney Center to start tracking the number of in-state and out-of-state clients visiting The Kearney Center.
  • Sonya Wilson, Executive Director, says now they are serving 100+ people more each night than 6 months. Many of these include out-of-state clients.
  • Watch the video to find out measures they're putting in place to cope with demand and why they're working to strengthen their agency network.


Increasing demand for services and rising costs has put added pressure on the Kearney Center.

I'm finding out why it's been critical for the center to make changes and developing their partnerships with other changes.

"We're stretched beyond stretched," said Sonya Wilson, Executive Director of the Kearney Center. She said the last 6 months have been challenging.

"Now our average is anywhere from 330 to 380 a night," said Wilson.

That's over 100 more people they're serving, including an influx in out-of-state clients.

So, Wilson has been strengthening and expanding their partnership network for support.

"I'm meeting with anybody that will listen and talk to me," said Wilson.

Some agencies have included the Leon County Sheriff's Office Outreach Team, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida and Big Bend Continuum of Care.

Wilson said Big Bend CoC recently gave them a grant to purchase 2 new industrial washers and dryers.

It's taking a huge team effort to help solve the puzzle of how to help more people facing homeless.

That's what I'm finding out.

Johnna Coleman with Big Bend Continuum of Care said they are consistently looking into how they can better meet the needs.

"What things can we bring in, what partnerships can be create, what innovative applications can we apply to the things that we're doing," said Coleman.

In order to be able to serve clients of the North Florida region as per their mission statement, the Kearney Center have implemented new changes charging out-of-state clients $10 a night.

I have been tracking the impact of people traveling to the Kearney Center for support since last fall.

I asked Wilson: "Do you think any of our interviews and our chats we were having in November prompted you to start tracking those numbers?"

Wilson responded: "As a matter of fact I think it did. It made me pay attention."

They have introduced a 90-day stay policy to focus on transitioning people into permanent housing.

"Our success is based on not just placing you, but helping you sustain," said Wilson.

To better assist the 100 senior residents currently on site, Wilson said they're developing services including wheelchair yoga.

"Down to coordinat[ing] with Bank of America to do some non traditional hours for our clients that are going into housing," said Wilson.

Working with Catholic Charities, Matthew Knee, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, said in the last year and half they've helped over 100 individuals from the Kearney Center get into housing.

"It can't fall on one agency, it can't fall on one non profit, one business to meet all the needs and serve everybody," said Knee.

That's why Wilson said she's really relying on the community for help.

"Because trust me if it could be cut out or eliminated, it has been," said Wilson.

Wilson said each client will be given an orientation packet, a case manager, and an action plan when they arrive.

To support the Kearney Center, Wilson said you can contact her directly at, if you're looking to volunteer. She added they will meet at the front of the center if you are looking to drop off donations their day service resources. These can include shampoo, conditioner, towels, and linens.