A few months ago, I wrote about a small organization called City Walk-Urban Mission in Tallahassee, Florida. The ministry was started in 2012 by Anthony and Renee Miller, it’s purpose, a faith-based, voluntary, re-entry type program to offer homeless men and ex-offenders a hand up, a chance to get back on their feet. The program accepts registrants.
The original piece was written back in May 2020. At that time City Walk had run into some nasty problems with county officials who seemed bent on closing them down. Certain neighbors of the heavily wooded 3.4- acre transitional home facility, upon finding out that registrants were included in those that resided there, wanted them gone. City council members attempted to go through local police and then Zoning and Code Enforcement in their attempts to find a way to force closure of the ministry. Things began to get ugly.
Now, there’s a lot of organizations out there that profess to “do good”, but City Walk-Urban Mission, seems to be the real deal.
With their motto of “Every saint has a past, every sinner a future”, you can’t help but like them.
This not-for-profit ministry doesn’t rely on any government aid or grants. Their primary source of funding is an 8,000 sq. ft. thrift store that they operate in Tallahassee as well as donations from those individuals who believe that investing in the lives of others is its own reward. They have a Farm Share program that distributes produce to low-income families meeting certain income requirements. They receive stacks of applications from inmates released from incarceration with nowhere to go and no help in the re-entry process. Their 12- month, voluntary program can accommodate 6 adult males at a time with the program focusing on helping them find jobs, meet probation requirements if necessary, find transportation and eventually reach their personal goals which often include reuniting with family. During their time in the program, the men live in a 3- bedroom home, share meals, chores and operate as a family unit. It’s everything a transitional home, re-entry program should be. It’s what the government should do, but doesn’t. Its honest people helping people who honestly need help.
So, when Wakulla County officials began laying problems on City Walk’s doorstep, despite the fact that they didn’t want to file a lawsuit, City Walk felt they had no choice. That’s how much those running this organization believe in their mission to help others.
City Walk’s attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC, filed a suit under the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law which protects the land use rights of religious institutions and assemblies. The suit seeks to secure City Walk’s right to continue its small, transitional home ministry at its current location.
On July 10, 2020, a federal court in Tallahassee did in fact enter a preliminary injunction against Wakulla County, Florida, protecting the religious exercise of City Walk-Urban Mission. The court found that the county’s restriction substantially burdened City Walk’s religious exercise and entered a preliminary order barring all county officials from attempting to prevent City Walk from housing up to 6 un-related adults in its transitional home.
The injunction order handed down by Judge Mark Walker began with a scripture quote: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (Matthew 25:44.2) To which the Lord replied, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Id.25:45.
Even those of us that aren’t religious or spiritual might have to agree that this Judge “hit the nail on the head” with that quote. Most people are basically good, but when there are neighbors or county officials that just want to make trouble for those that are guilty of nothing more than being in need, hungry, homeless or just out of prison, it kind of reflects poorly on all of us.
Let’s hope that things continue to improve for City Walk-Urban Mission so that they may continue the good work they are doing.