City Walk looks for new building amid fire safety dispute with city
“Right now we are agreeable with leaving, we are trying to as quickly as possible,” said Executive Director Renee Miller
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Boxes of belongings and supplies are stacked inside City Walk Urban Mission shelter, and Executive Director Renee Miller said they are actively looking to find a new place to set up shop amid their ongoing legal battle with the City of Tallahassee.
Less than a month ago, a judge declined City Walk’s emergency motion to stay in its shelter on Mahan Drive after the organization was ordered to vacate its building by the Tallahassee Fire Department in late March.
On March 24, the fire department found the building to be a danger to itself and residential occupants over a number of building code violations, including having no sprinkler system.
“We’ve taken down our population (of people that we’re able to help) to a third,” said pastor and director Renee Miller. “The only places that would actively facilitate something like this, are in the millions and we do not have a budget for in the millions.”
As a result of the city’s vacate order, City Walk was forced to shut down its overnight shelter operations, though Miller said they had been operating under the fire department’s “fire watch” program as a remedy.
“We’ve brought in other people to try and work with all of the people (we shelter),” Miller said. “We’re working to try and place them other places.”
Miller said as efforts to find a new location continue, they have already been able to find 19 residents shelter throughout the city and county with other organizations, including the Leon County Sheriff’s Office Homelessness Outreach Team and the Big Bend Continuum of Care.
Miller said that installing a sprinkler system to come up to the fire code would cost City Walk around $100,000. That amount is not feasible amount, she said, so the shelter has been exploring several alternatives for a new location.
“We’ve thought about getting land and putting multiple mobile homes on it, but you can’t just open a mobile home park either,” Miller said. “People are suggesting The Bed Bath and Beyond that’s going out of business, and that’s a no because it would be the same situation that we’re having here.”
Miller said City Walk attorneys and city of Tallahassee attorneys are working to set a timeline for them to vacate the building entirely. But she’s urging other organizations to step up in the meantime to help those most vulnerable.
“We can’t be the only people that care,” Miller said. “To the citizens of Tallahassee, and to the faith community, why aren’t we being the hands and feet?”
Miller said if there was an alternative shelter for City Walk to move their operation to they would “move tomorrow.”
“We are trying to make a good-faith effort so that we can be out of this property, but take the people that really need us with us,” Miller said. “But what is the government doing to help us? Absolutely nothing, and everybody who would say ‘City Walk’s doing it wrong’ I would take what we’re doing wrong over what you’re not doing at all.”
City Walk filed a motion to stop the vacate order Monday.
WCTV reached out to the city attorney’s office for an update on the status of the vacate order or any set deadline for City Walk to vacate their building.
In a statement, the city said, “If the owner fails to bring the property into compliance the cases will be returned to the Code Board to impose fines.”
The City of Tallahassee has filed a request with the Circuit Court seeking a court order to stop the residential occupation of the property, and a hearing is scheduled for July 24.
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