CRA designed Tallahassee’s new 36,000 square foot, 24-hour comprehensive emergency services center, which serves as a national model for a facility of this type. In April, local community leaders cut the ribbon for The Kearney Center: A Facility for Comprehensive Emergency Services. This interim residential facility functions as both a shelter and a rehabilitation center to help transition people out of homelessness.

Kearney Center

“People need to have dignity. They need to have a sense of purpose, need to say ‘I deserve this,’ and this center brings them to that level,” said Rick Kearney, CEO of Mainline Information Systems and Founder of the Beatitude Foundation.

This facility is a 24-hour full service center that will bring agencies from throughout the community together under one roof to help the homeless get back on their feet. It includes men’s and women’s dormitories, medical and mental health clinic, counseling, administration, a large kitchen and dining area, general educational development space, laundry, heated storage room and computer centers. Women and men have separate dorm areas; in fact, the women’s area is designed with battered women in mind so they do not have to see male guests. The facility is equipped with spacious bathrooms and shower stalls with sitting benches. The heated storage room is capable of reaching 145 degrees as a nonchemical treatment for killing bedbugs clinging to clothes and linens, killing the pests within 20 minutes.

“It’s not a soup kitchen. It’s not hots and a cot,” The Shelter’s director Jacob Reiter said. “This is not the old system of care. This is comprehensive. This addresses everyone’s need.”

This facility is designed to have a visual expression of non-institutional structure, to be inviting and very approachable. Outdoor, partially covered decks are accessed from each dormitory and the dining room for relaxation, outdoor dining and musical performances by the residence. Interior of the building is friendly, warm and calming by providing natural lights, colors, texture and artworks. It is designed to provide respect and integrity for all the residents.

“When they come in here and see this facility and how important it is, that we’ve put on solving their problem, I think they’ll feel much better about themselves and that’s half the problem,” said Tallahassee Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who was the city’s liaison for the planning process.

The project is funded and owned as part of a public-private partnership between several entities: the City of Tallahassee, Leon County, The Beatitude Foundation, The Shelter, The Renaissance Center, United Way of the Big Bend and the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.