In Downtown Orlando, the chronically homeless individuals living on our streets remain one of our biggest challenges. Working closely with the re-energized Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, the City studied what other cities have done to move homeless individuals off the streets and into housing. These approaches have one common focus: they recognize that many of the disabled and chronically homeless individuals will never get off the streets without community intervention and without a path to permanent housing with supportive services.
Known as “Housing First,” this approach places chronically homeless individuals in permanent housing and then surrounds them with needed supportive services including mental health counseling, treatment for addiction, basic medical care and the skills to manage their home. Additionally, this approach provides a more coordinated effort between the region’s existing service providers.
Our community has developed a business model that builds the system necessary, including case workers and housing specialists, to provide long-term housing for chronically homeless individuals. The Central Florida community has secured more than $7 million to support the effort – $1 million from a HUD Bonus Grant and another $6 million from Florida Hospital – which will combine with local funds to create a three-year financing plan at more than $5 million per year. This gift from Florida Hospital is the largest philanthropic investment in homeless services in our region. Additionally, the Homeless Services Network, our lead agency responsible for distributing federal homeless dollars, has brought in a new executive director with extensive experience in working with chronic homelessness to help our region accomplish our goal.