Safety Concerns of Tallahassee's Homeless


According to homeless advocates, the need for more living spaces for homeless people. The two murders involving homeless or transient Tallahassee residents happened almost two years apart. Coincidentally, they're up for trial the same week.

Robert Thornton sat quietly as a jury was selected for his murder trial. Back in 2000, police found Ben Baldwin's body off North Monroe Street. Both men were homeless, reportedly living in camps in the woods.

Arthur Lee Harris also goes on trial this Week. He's accused of stabbing a man in Frenchtown last year over a pair of sunglasses. Again, both the victim and the accused killer were homeless. Kay Freeman points out future sites of housing space for homeless people. With the downtown shelter at or over capacity, more space is critical.

"Currently, a lot homeless people live in overcrowded situation. As you can well imagine, that can lead to conflict and anger," says Kay.

The Tallahassee Coalition for the Homeless is about $200,000 short of funds for its homeless housing complex. She hopes this week's trials draw the right kind of attention to homeless issues.

"The percent of homeless people who end up in trouble are only about 20 percent. We need to think about serving the majority of the homeless to the fullest capacity possible."

If you'd like to do something to help the homeless, the coalition is getting ready for its annual service day. That's October 18, and they could use any toiletries or basic necessities you might want to offer. You can call 576-5566 for more information.

Robert Thornton faces first-degree murder. Arthur Lee Harris faces second-degree murder. Thornton's attorney tells us his client spent a year and a half in a psychiatric hospital, that's why the trial has been delayed. Extended Web Coverage

What Can You Do to Help the Homeless?

  • Do not give cash handouts to a homeless person, unless so moved to do so! By doing so, you risk the chance of aiding a possible alcoholic or drug addict in getting their next fix.

  • Instead, purchase food for that person yourself.

  • Be sure to converse with that individual like you would any homed, high esteemed person, so as to convey a sense of worth and civilization in that homeless individual.

  • After you feed that homeless person, refer them to social services, or another charity that provides food, shelter, and/or assistance.

  • If you are already affiliated with a charitable or non-profit organization, and you have them to give, leave that person with a food voucher.

  • Donate clothes, especially cold weather ones, to your local donations charity.

  • Remember, homelessness, has many faces so include diapers and other enfant necessities in your list of donated items, for the children of single and battered women.

  • Also, donating an unused toy or two will not be missed and could brighten up some homeless child's Christmas or Birthday.

  • Homeless people live on the streets, so the donation of hygiene and other personal items are always welcomed by shelters and other charities, which rarely can meet the demand.

  • Be charitable, but avoid getting taken by supposed 'help the homeless' scams. ( Tedrico's Page to Help the Homeless)

Facts about Homelessness

  • On any given night, 750,000 Americans are homeless.

  • Over the course of a year, as many as two million people experience homelessness for some period of time.

  • These are the people who live on the street, in shelters, in cars, and in campgrounds.

  • Millions more live in precarious situations—over-crowded with family or friends, housed temporarily in institutions like prisons or mental hospitals, or paying too much of their income for rent.

  • The fastest growing group of homeless people consists of families with children.

  • Families make up about 36 percent of the people who become homeless.

  • The typical homeless family consists of a young unmarried mother with two or three small children.

  • Many of these young mothers are fleeing domestic violence, and most lack the work skills, access to child care, or access to jobs necessary to support their families.

Source: (National Alliance to End Homelessness Web site) contributed to this report.