New Effort to Reduce Homelessness

By: Andy Alcock
By: Andy Alcock

Booker Elliard is helping put up a new fence surrounding the Westgate housing project.

For Elliard, it all started after he was released from prison.

The Miami native went to Tallahassee's Renaissance Community Center looking for a fresh start.

Now he has a job with a fence crew.

"It's really a blessing to be out here and an honor, so I'm taking advantage of it to the best of my ability," said Elliard. "It's really a blessing," he said.

The Westlake project is part of team effort involving Florida State's College of Social Work and local resources including the Renaissance Center.

"We're hoping not to replace other workers and other employment opportunities, but to create brand new ones that won't in any way be competing, but supporting," said FSU Social Work Professor Tomi Gomory.

"And if they can get employment in some stability, they can get themselves out of it, out of the emergency shelters and back up on their own feet," said Westgate Project Manager Chuck White.

The Westgate project not only employs people like Booker Elliard, when it's complete, it will provide more than a dozen affordable housing units for the homeless.

And Elliard believes he's learned a skill to help him be employable once the project is done.

"I'm really planting some good seeds here in Tallahassee," said Elliard. "This is just the first stage of it," he said. "As long as I keep watering and pulling the weeds out of it, everything will be smooth," Elliard said.

Rick Kearney of Mainline Information Systems is providing funding for the Westgate housing project.

He also funded the construction of the Renaissance Community Center.

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