The Kearney Center News

Tallahassee Jewish Federation Teen Philanthropy Provides Grant to The Shelter

This year, 12 local high school students, who serve as the Tallahassee Jewish Federation (TJF) Teen Philanthropy Initiative’s Teen Board, awarded grants totaling $12,500 to six organizations that provide important services to individuals in need.

Locally, the Teen Board invited the Big Bend Homeless Coalition and The Shelter to apply for a grant. The teens visited leaders of both organizations to learn more about the important work they do and about the specific projects for which they sought support. Both the BBHC and The Shelter have been delighted to work with the Teen Board. Stephanie Beckingham, Assistant to the Director of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, shared:

“I cannot tell you what an honor it is to stand beside organizations in Israel as we meet critical needs in our communities, in partnership with the Tallahassee Jewish Federation. The TJF Teen Board has provided financial support to those we serve for the last six years and has played some part in helping over 300 individuals as they move from homelessness to stable housing. We truly could not do this without them. On a more personal note, I have truly enjoyed watching the teens grow up over the years, and know many of them will become our future servant leaders.”

Jacob Reiter, Executive Director of The Shelter, congratulated the Teen Board for its work and thanked the Board for its generous support as well.

Read the full article on

Shelter Residents Night at the Opera

Every week The Shelter has music therapy sessions for the residents. At the end of a session a few weeks ago, DeVane suggested the idea of going to the opera to other residents and volunteers. We got asked about the opera, which was surprising to me at first,” said Anna Marie Friars, a Florida State University graduate student who helps run the music therapy sessions. "But then I remembered that these are regular people, normal human beings. The wheels got turning and everyone jumped on board."

Friars, along with the help of other volunteers at The Shelter, created a Go Fund Me campaign online to help fund the magical night. The money would go towards providing a picture-perfect evening for the residents, which would include clothing, transportation, dinner and the opera tickets.

Read the full article on

Ground Breaking Speech February 19 2014 given by Deborah Holt, Chairman of the Board, Tallahassee Leon Shelter

Good Morning, County Executive…. Mayor Marks, Commissioners and invited guests.

Comprehensive Emergency Services Center GroundbreakingToday we celebrate a remarkable achievement, the culmination of 12 months of planning. That word planning is so bland. We forget that it encompasses weeks and days and hours of work by county and city employees to identify this site and secure all of the permits and funding. They not only stepped up to the plate but exceeded all of our hopes. We overlook that it incorporates the generous leadership of the United Way, encouraging the planners to persevere toward success. We fail to recall the tremendous donation of time and expertise by The Shelter Board which stepped into the breach and found the wisdom and courage to honor 25 years of uninterrupted service and recognize that it was a new day and lay the foundation for the next 25 years.

Today we break ground to provide services to the most vulnerable among us. We humans need to rest to recharge our batteries. We need to be safe while we rest and we need to perceive that we are safe, believe that we are safe, so that we can face the challenges of the next day. A principle goal for this new facility is to provide that safety for those who rest or work here. Folks without a place to stay can come here and get their second wind. They can get medical attention, education, counseling, referrals to more services, plus a bed to rest in and three good meals, all under one roof. We will be able to sleep 390 people with no mats on the floor. Our new kitchen will be able to feed all 390 clients plus those seeking services from the RCC but not staying for the night. In 2013 the Shelter delivered 80,435 lodging nights and we are currently averaging between 220-240 clients each night plus the 50 to 60 men at the Cold Night Shelter.

As we get ready to erect the walls of this building I want to reflect on the virtual walls that have crumbled during the past few years. The Cold Night Shelter that opened in 2011 is an early example of community collaboration. First Baptist Church and this year Jacob's Chapel hosted the Cold Night Shelter that was planned by the City, the County, Red Cross, the Faith Community, the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, and The Shelter. The Mayor's Homeward Bound Planning initiative brought the service providers together and identified the need for more community collaboration. The spirit of collaboration grew steadily with the success of the RCC and the planning process that brought the community of service providers together. It has grown stronger in recent months as success has built on success.

Tallahassee is a great city, a gem sheltered by towering oaks and pines with a tradition of philanthropic generosity. I want to make a special thank you to everyone who has supported The Shelter, the RCC and other homeless service providers. It is because of you that we are able to provide services and we look forward to your continued support on this exciting new venture. Today is the first day that we will be offering our bricks for your donation. The bricks will be a pathway for all who seek our services.

This facility and all it represents is an inspiration to us all that good works can be achieved by communities that share a common vision. Creating that vision is sometimes the toughest part of the job. This facility is a dream come true for the professionals, the advocates, and the volunteers who have worked in this community for 25 years to ameliorate the challenges of those experiencing homelessness. It will be a beacon for those who pass through its doors, a brilliant reminder that the community cares, that even though life is tough, there is hope; that being homeless today does not mean being homeless forever.

Teamwork between the public and private sectors is not new. There are examples around the world. But we forget about them. We get a mindset that the government should do it or that the faith community should do it, or anybody else but each of us.
Many people in our community have worked for decades to assist those experiencing homelessness. Each one of them has made a contribution, big or small, to identifying the causes and developing the solutions of homelessness. It is not an easy calling. Many of you in this audience have the bone fides, and probably the scars to prove it.

Rick Kearney, Mainline CEO and Chairman of the BoardFor years Rick Kearney cared for the homeless in his own home; transported them in his own car; fed them his own food. When that didn’t work out so well, he founded several nonprofits. But we all know that we have to do what we are good at. Having a big heart and a commitment to those in need was not enough. So MainLine Information Systems got started and then the Beatitude Foundation got started. When the Beatitude Foundation purchased that old warehouse on West Virginia Street, I tried to get them to convert it to a dining hall. What was I thinking? Remember I spoke about the toughest part being creating a vision?I saw 30 new bunk beds in our existing dining room and a new building in which to feed 300 people: Rick saw a place for those experiencing homelessness to come to one building to access all of the services they need to help them find their new home. It’s that vision thing.

It is my honor to introduce Rick Kearney.


For immediate release:

The board of directors of the Tallahassee-Leon Shelter last night at a regular meeting elected Jacob Reiter to lead the homeless center’s efforts to build a 21st century emergency intake program.

The Shelter is the only facility of its kind between Jacksonville and Panama City. Although various other agencies offer services for homeless families and individuals, the Shelter is the only entry point in this area for homeless persons’ access to the support system.

Executive Director Jacob Reiter

Reiter, who has worked in the Tallahassee homeless services community since 2007, took over as acting director earlier this year after the Shelter’s founder and former director, Mel Eby, retired.

United Way President and CEO Heather Mitchell, notified of Reiter’s appointment, said, “Jacob has been quietly leading the Shelter’s transformation for the past six months. He is the right person for this job.”

Reiter studied environmental policy at the University of Central Florida before volunteering with AmeriCorps (known as the domestic Peace Corps), and the National Coalition for the Homeless placed him at the Shelter in Tallahassee. The move enabled Reiter to pursue his master’s degree in sociology at Florida State University.

When the Shelter first opened in 1987 and incorporated in 1988, it adopted a mission statement that noted the Shelter existed to respond to the emergency need of people for shelter, food, medical assistance and other crisis intervention. However, the Shelter’s new mission statement reflects a broader role and a more comprehensive approach to helping the homeless recover their lives and self-esteem.

The new mission statement says “The Shelter is a 24-hour comprehensive service center that serves as a point of entry into assistance by coordinating services and responding to immediate needs of individuals and families until appropriate permanent housing can be arranged.”

“That defines the challenges that lie ahead,” Reiter said.

Reiter said he looks forward to addressing the goals the board and he have set for the Shelter, and promises to be diligent in implementing those goals.

Jacob Reiter 305-904-7845
Deborah Holt, Board Chair 850-545-8177

During their stay at The Shelter, residents are provided with toiletries and other essential needs. These items are supplied entirely through donations received from individuals and groups in our community. If you would like to contribute to our effort to ensure that every resident’s basic needs can be met each night, please see our current list of needed supplies. Your donation is greatly appreciated by The Shelter and by those we serve. Donations can be dropped off at the Kitchen Door on the corner of Tennessee and Macomb Street. Ring the buzzer on the kitchen door and staff will assist.

We also have several openings on our Meal Provider calendar that need to be filled. If you are interested in providing a meal or serving, please call Doris at 850-224-9055, Monday through Friday, 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

Food donations for a portion of a meal are welcome. Items such as instant mashed potatoes, rice, canned stew, packaged cookies and restaurant size (#10) cans of vegetables and non-sweetened fruits would help us supply a meal for the evenings we do not have a scheduled meal provider.

A Shelter Success Story from Jacob Reiter, Acting Director, The Shelter

On November 6th, 2012, I answered a call at The Shelter from a concerned women living in New York looking for her father. She told me she loved him very much and had been looking for him for the past 17 years and been calling shelters with hopes to find him. She explained he has suffered abuse, and was very quiet never asking anybody for help. After her father and his wife divorced he sunk into a depression and disappeared. I took down her number and promised her if he comes to our door I will be sure to let him know his daughter misses him and that I would give him her number.

This summer her father came to our shelter! I sat down with him and told him about my conversation with his daughter. He explained he wasn’t ready to call her because he wanted to be in his own place and doing well first, but he did give me permission to let her know he is safe and at The Shelter. I called her today and she was crying and so excited to know her father is alive and safe!

Tomorrow she will be emailing me a letter for her father with pictures of her and her daughter with hopes that one day he will be ready to come home!

The United Way of the Big Bend and The Shelter's board say that things are headed in the right direction at The Tallahassee Leon Shelter. Changes have been made, with bigger changes to come. And the United Way is singing the praises of The Shelter's board.

Read the full story on

Story about The Shelter Band on WCTV.tvLast year, they were the opening act in the bright sunshine of Celebrate America. This year, they are the headliners on the local stage, playing last in the evening twilight of Tallahassee’s annual Fourth of July celebration at Tom Brown Park.

The Shelter Band keeps moving up.

Read the full story and see video about The Shelter Band on

© 2015 The Kearney Center
2650 Municipal Way Tallahassee, FL. 32304
Phone:(850) 792-9000
Fax: (850) 536-6053

The Kearney Center is focused on eradicating homelessness throughout Tallahassee and the Big Bend region.

Facebook Instagram Twitter Facebook