By Cristi McKee
TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Local thrift store and outreach center, City Walk Urban Mission, will be opening an emergency shelter on Nov. 20 in response to the growing need for homeless individuals seeking emergency shelter, especially in the upcoming winter months. “God has called us to open our doors to care for those unsheltered in our city,” Renee Miller, City Walk founder and owner, explains.
The shelter will not only be Tallahassee’s only low-threshold emergency shelter, but the only one in the eight counties found in the Big Bend. Many of City Walk’s clients have not slept indoors or taken a hot shower in several months. Currently, Miller estimates 780 persons are experiencing homelessness in the community, with well over 100 living entirely unsheltered. “That changes now!” Miller says.
Especially amid a pandemic, this impacts public health. At the shelter, City Walk will separate their clients in groups of two to a room with cots spaced six feet apart. They will check temperatures, provide masks to wear upon entry and require personal hygiene measures. The shelter will also provide nutritious meals to clients and have their bedding commercially cleaned at temperatures high enough to kill all viruses. Isolation rooms will be available to those who are ill, and they will work with the Florida Department of Health to facilitate recovery.
The shelter expects to house 100 individuals per night, which equates to 36, 500 “safe nights of sleep” over the next year. City Walk has also partnered with food truck Mae’s Mobile Kitchen to offer meals for breakfast and dinner, which equates to 73,000 hot meals over the next year.
City Walk was established in 2013 and offers counseling, classes, meetings, volunteer opportunities, work therapy, job skills training, work experience opportunities and assistance searching for and obtaining employment for those in need. Through the program, Miller says, “persons in the most dire situations will rebuild their lives and become active, thriving, productive community members.”
Having access to emergency services providing basic needs lowers recidivism and makes communities safer, according to Miller. “We have trained volunteers that understand how to care for persons experiencing trauma and mental illness. Our volunteers and social workers are skilled in deescalation techniques. We also outsource additional security officers to check for weapons and maintain order,” she says.
City Walk is located at 1105 N Monroe St and accepts donations of gently-used items and monetary donations year-round in support of their ministry.