By Charlene Balewa
Making a positive difference in the community is a key priority at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
For President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., a prime opportunity to demonstrate the level of importance took place on Nov. 23 when she presented a $500 gift certificate to the Kearney Center in Tallahassee.
A new comprehensive emergency services facility, The Kearney Center provides food, shelter, medical assistance, and crisis intervention services for the Tallahassee homeless community on a daily basis. Each night, 70 to 200 men and women enter the Kearney Center seeking a place of refuge. More than 700 meals provided by Second Harvest are distributed daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Soft pastel colors wash the walls of each hallway throughout the center, while a kaleidoscope of colors ricochet from a sculpture hanging from the center of the ceiling. This state-of-the-art facility, which opened in April of last year, offers a welcoming environment for its residents and does not make them feel confined.
Many of the shelter’s clients struggle with chronic health conditions, physical disabilities, and mental health issues.
Danni Groton, operations manager for the Kearney Center, said members of the homeless community face many challenges that hinder their ability to become productive citizens due to a loss of their identification, medical records, or immigration documents.
“Some are veterans, while others are victims of domestic violence,” Groton said.
The Kearney Center has case managers assigned to work with each resident to actively assist them with a housing plan, applications for benefits as well as helping with coordination of central services such as mental health counseling, substance and alcohol abuse, GED classes, medical assistance, and other related programs. The facility also takes a holistic approach to assisting the homeless by offering yoga, spiritual counseling, community gardening, and athletic activities.
The Kearney Center is a nonprofit organization that receives funding from various sources including the city, county, state, and federal governments, along with numerous private donations. The facility partners with several organizations including the Hope Community Center, which houses full families that are displaced. Additional agencies include the Big Bend Coalition and Westgate, which both help Kearney Center residents find affordable housing options.
Medical services are provided to residents by the Bond Community Center and The Neighborhood Clinic. The shelter offers a nursing team that treats approximately 70 patients each night administering medical and pharmaceutical services seven days a week.
Kearney Center community relations coordinator, Monique Ellsworth, said some area college students also seek shelter at the facility. Surprisingly, there are a large number of homeless students that attend both FSU and FAMU.
“We have a lot of our clients that are currently in school with no place to live. We provide letters of verification of homelessness status, which helps waive tuition for our residents that are trying to access post-secondary education. We have funding and support for their various needs, such as text books or any educational assistance with homework or computer access,” Ellsworth said.
For more information on services provided by the Center or how to contribute please call, 850-224-8448.