The Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) began in January 2022, and has two full-time Deputies that support all of Leon County. These specialized Deputies work in conjunction with the City of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Police Department to address homelessness-related concerns and provide support for those in need. Services are offered Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 5 PM. No two days look the same for these Deputies as they can be seen walking through camps, working with providers to coordinate outreach efforts, and sharing requested items with identified persons.
Homelessness (also referred to as unsheltered persons) continues to be a concern locally and across the country. Addressing the needs of those within the community is a priority of both LCSO and local partners. These efforts involve a joint approach and are focused on providing and connecting persons to specific referral organizations based on individual identified needs. The types of service referrals available include but are not limited to necessary resources (food and clothing), housing, employment, transportation, medical, and other social service programs.
HOST Deputies also attend and participate in multiple meetings, events, workshops, and discussions on homelessness. These conversations are held at the local level all the way up to the national level and include feedback from citizens, elected officials, and non-profit organizations. HOST Deputies also attend specialized homelessness trainings with multiple law enforcement agencies across the State of Florida and identify new resources and skills to implement within Leon County. Furthermore, Leon County and City of Tallahassee officials also engage in many discussions surrounding homelessness and available solutions.
A primary challenge to address homelessness is permanent supportive housing options. This topic impacts the entire nation, and conversations continue to be had within Leon County about the length of time to acquire housing, the options available based on pricing, and limiting factors such as criminal records, evictions, and more. Other considerations are clients who refuse services, the need for additional funding to support homeless initiatives as the number of persons in need increases, and other service providers being requested for specific needs, such as those who are veterans.
HOST Deputies pride themselves on making new connections with businesses, service providers, and local organizations to combat some of the identified challenges. They also spend significant time building rapport with clients and supporting the individualized needs of each person. Many of the HOST clients call the Deputies by their first names, tell them stories about their past, and discuss topics impacting everyone. The number of successes and persons served by the HOST will only continue to grow due to the exceptional Deputies on the team and strong partnerships throughout the community.