2014 was a tremendous year for the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. In keeping with our mission to identify long-term sustainable solutions for those who are homeless in Central Florida, we are bringing the community together and finding resources for addressing homelessness in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. Thousand of viewers followed our advocacy campaign, “Rethink Homelessness,” on social media, local television, and billboards located throughout the community. Meanwhile, “Cardboard Stories,” our video that chronicled the stories of the homeless the street of Orlando, went viral with more than 5 million views from around the world.
The pinnacle of our year was the community trip to Houston, where more than 75 top leaders, including Orange County Mayor, Teresa Jacobs, and City of Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, got an up-close and personal look at how that city has reduced its homeless population by more than half in the past three years. This momentum has led to a new wave of public and private sector investments. In late December, Florida Hospital, through the single, largest private-sector gift given in Central Florida history, committed $6 million toward helping homeless efforts. Consequently, Orange Country and the city of Orlando jurisdictions have new plans and commitments as well.
Many of those who have experienced homelessness have been on the streets for years, maybe even decades. In order to move from the streets into a home of their own, they will need furniture, dishes and other household items we often take for granted. However, more than anything, they might need someone who cares enough to simply have a conversation with them. The local charities cannot do this work by themselves. This year, a new army of volunteers is needed to help transform lives. It is the Commission’s hope to enlist more than 1,000 “foot soldiers” through the Rethink Change campaign.
While the majority of the homeless in our area are categorically chronic there are many families who are living on the streets as well. Many of them moved to Central Florida in search of a better way of life but lacking a support system, now live in hotels, shelters, doubled up with relatives, or even in their cars. In an effort to assist with these families, the Commission in partnership with the University of Central Florida has established a Family Homelessness Committee. This committee, led by Mayor Jacobs and Dick Batchelor, is comprised of elected officials, faith and business leaders, DCF, healthcare providers, funders, government, and other non-profits support services, and will examine other communities, such as Salt Lake City, to develop a regional plan.
With all of this momentum, 2015 is not the year to loosen up the reins, but rather the time to keep forging ahead for additional investments that will help the chronically homeless individuals and families find a home of their own. We have real solutions, but those solutions require the financial backing of philanthropists and corporate leaders. Only then can those solutions be implemented to see tangible results.
We have challenged the community to see the homeless as real people with real needs. Last year, we changed minds together, and this year, 2015, is the time for us to combine all of our talents, time, and treasures, to change the lives of the homeless. We would like to issue a call to every leader, advocate, philanthropist, elected official, business owner, faith leader, and caring member of this community, and ask you to ponder this one simple question:
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO THIS YEAR TO CHANGE THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO ARE HOMELESS?
Here are two simple ways; we will be training volunteers and then perform a large-scale community point-in-time count (surge) of homeless individuals with the goal of creating a registry and identifying homeless Veterans.
In collaboration with the local Veterans Affairs (VA) and Homeless Services Network (HSN), a “Surge” outreach initiative will take place to locate every homeless Veteran in Central Florida. The “Surge” count will take place across the region during the week of July 20. Community advocates will lead hundreds of volunteers in this effort to identify homeless Veterans in need.
Your participation is needed. Training for the “Surge” count will take place the week of July 13th. Volunteer assignments will be given at or after the training. You must attend one of the training sessions to participate:
To sign up as a volunteer for any of these training classes please email:
Or phone 321-710-4663 ext. 2
Secondly, you can join us for a special event hosted by the Citrus Club and the Young Executive Club, benefiting the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness; Diamonds are Forever Casino Night,. This event will be held at the Citrus Club on Saturday, August 29, from 6 pm till 10 pm. For more information, purchase of tickets, or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Nina at firstname.lastname@example.org