Development Review Committee denies transitional housing permit for City Walk shelter

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 2:13 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After almost three hours of public comment, Tallahassee’s Development Review Committee voted to deny the permit for the City Walk transitional housing facility on Mahan Drive.

In person public comment lasted two hours, with 21 people speaking against the shelter and 18 people speaking in favor. The virtual comment then took another hour, with 11 people speaking against the shelter and seven speaking in favor.

During in person public comment, residents from City Walk shared their stories.

“They gave me opportunity. They gave me a job. They gave me counseling,” said one man. “Other people wouldn’t do that because I am homeless.”

Another man staying at City Walk also chimed in.

“I pick up trash myself with people who volunteer from the facility,” he said. “We are taking steps every day to improve the situations people are concerned about.”

City Walk’s Executive Director, Renee Miller, told the DRC she would read from the document that she believes gives them authority to operate; she then read from Matthew 25:35-45 in the Bible.

Supporters of City Walk held signs during the meeting, with messages including, “How do you get a job without a bed and a shower,” “I fought 4 freedom. Will you fight 4 my shelter,” “I didn’t know I needed City permission to exist,” and “My life should be more important than your HOA.”

One man said it was a difficult situation to navigate as a Christian.

“There was a process that was in place, and it didn’t meet the criteria. So I don’t think that was a hard decision for the committee today, however, the emotional part probably wasn’t easy,” said nearby resident Jeremy Shaw.

Shaw says he learned more about the shelter during Monday’s meeting and appreciates the services they provide; however, he believes the lack of communication from City Walk at the start was a hurdle residents were not going to be able to get over.

“I think it was one of those decisions that as a denial it was good for the citizens in the neighborhoods locally, and that there are mixed feelings on both sides about it,” said Shaw.

Pastor Renee Miller told WCTV after the meeting that the decision was what they expected.

“There is an appeal process which we will work on starting now, and after that there is a judicial process that we’re also working on,” said Miller. “So this is not the end.”

Miller says she sees issues with the City’s process.

“You cannot hold someone that might be responsible for something without due process. There’s no due process; like, I think that somebody experiencing homelessness might go there, and might do something I don’t like in my neighborhood,” she said.

Residents and business owners who spoke against the shelter expressed concerns about safety, citing increased panhandling, trespassing, littering and loitering in the area.

Supporters pushed back, saying there was no proof that the people breaking the law were staying at City Walk.

The DRC decision was unanimous; the committee is made up of City staff, not elected officials.

WCTV reporter Monica Casey tweeted live updates from the Monday morning meeting. See her thread below.

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