Caring for Those Experiencing Homelessness

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We’re using the same spirit of partnership and collaboration to support our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness and to advance our shared priority that every resident has a safe place to sleep and their basic needs of clothing, food and hygiene are met. 

The City of Orlando invests more than $3.8 million each year to partner agencies to support programs that provide emergency shelter, bridge and permanent housing, supportive services and ongoing case management to those who are experiencing homelessness. 

Specific initiatives underway include:

  • Covering approximately 70% of the rent for more than 380 of our most vulnerable previously-homeless residents who have been placed into permanent housing that includes an array of tailored supportive services including mental health and substance abuse treatment and support. 

  • Expanding Orlando’s Bridge Housing program, originally established in response to COVID-19, which is a temporary housing solution aimed to quickly bring homeless individuals off the streets and help them rebuild their lives. 

  • Supporting the efforts of our community’s emergency shelters to ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness have a place to sleep and their basic needs of clothing, food and hygiene are met. 

  • Supporting diversion programs to explore a person’s own resources, support systems, and all possible safe housing alternatives to prevent residents from falling into a homeless crisis, entering a shelter or remaining on the streets.  

  • Increasing the city’s inventory of housing for residents at all income levels by investing and forging new partnerships to develop and rehabilitate quality housing units for our residents. 

In 2006, Mayor Buddy Dyer helped champion and form the first Regional Commission on Homelessness, a homeless service system designed to ensure any episode of homelessness is rare, brief and singular by developing a regional plan to address the core issues. During 2019, the Commission began discussions with the board of the Homeless Services Network, the region's HUD-mandated Continuum of Care to complete a strategic alignment to improve efficiency within the leadership system.  The City of Orlando works closely with the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida and its 65 partner agencies to serve our most vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Osceola, Seminole and Orange Counties.

The Central Florida region is seeking to move all partners to a housing-focused system with the ultimate goal of connecting those experiencing homelessness with a permanent home which we call our Housing First initiative.  

Housing First recognizes that support services are much more effective when provided after housing placement rather than in shelter. Our regional system of care is focused on helping the household find and move into housing. As part of the Housing First initiative, supportive services for residents include mental health and substance abuse support. 

This is a process that does take time, as each individual is unique and often has barriers like a physical disability, mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Through partnerships with government agencies, service providers, the faith-based community and businesses, the City of Orlando currently provides permanent, supportive housing to more than 380 individuals. 

In addition to ensuring that those experiencing homelessness have a safe place to sleep at night, the city continues to partner with the organizations that serve the homeless and provide a safe place for those experiencing homelessness to receive services during the day. 

Some examples include:

  • Coalition for the Homeless
    The city provides funding to offer shower and laundry facilities as well as mail service to unsheltered homeless men, women and families. The city supports the Coalition’s rapid rehousing program that moves people out of shelters into permanent homes.

  • Christian Service Center
    The Christian Service Center provides meals, food, clothing, rent or utility assistance or other services. On Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Christian Service Center serves as a Coordinated Entry Community HUB where an individual or family experiencing homelessness can meet with an intake specialist for a face-to-face conversation about their housing situation. 

  • Service and Love Together (SALT)
    The city helps fund Service and Love Together (SALT) to provide showers, haircuts, clothing, laundry services, storage services and hygiene products to unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness. SALT currently operates three days per week at the Christian Service Center.

  • Dave’s House / Pathways Drop-In Center
    The city is supporting Dave’s House to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan focused on the Pathways Drop-In Center (PDIC) which has been closed due to COVID-19 and is at risk for permanent closure without immediate intervention. PDIC is a mental health, consumer-run community center for people suffering from serious mental illnesses. The center is a safe haven for a very vulnerable population, the mentally ill, including those experiencing homelessness.

  • IDignity
    IDignity helps residents, including those experiencing homelessness, through the complex steps of getting personal identification. Documents like birth certificates, Florida ID cards and Social Security cards are essential for cashing checks, picking up prescriptions and getting housing.

  • Salvation Army
    The city provided funding to Salvation Army to allow its guests to remain at the shelter during the day, provide three meals per day and provide laundry services, clothing, showers and counseling and care. 

  • Zebra Coalition
    Provides services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all youth (LGBTQ+) who may be facing homelessness, bullying, isolation from their families and physical, sexual and drug abuse. These services include shower and laundry facilities, community resource coordination, food and hygiene products.  

The HOPE Team  

The City of Orlando supports the efforts of the Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort  (HOPE) Team which is a diverse team of outreach specialists, veterans, licensed mental health and medical providers and volunteers who engage and build trust with people experiencing homelessness, assess their needs and eligibility and connect them to services. The HOPE Team works where people experiencing homelessness live and survive - on the streets, in encampments and shelters and in the woods.

The HOPE Team can be reached by calling 407.757.2914. 

Downtown Ambassadors  

Our Downtown Ambassadors provide assistance for residents, workers and visitors seven days a week. Some of the responsibilities of the Ambassadors include serving as safety escorts for workers and residents and helping curb aggressive, unwanted panhandling.  

Social Service Ambassadors were added this year to provide those experiencing homelessness with an on-the-street connection to food, shelter, healthcare, day services and emergency services. Their role is to support the HOPE team to locate their homeless clients and assist in coordinating their needs.  

To contact an Ambassador or request service, call or text 407.902.4374.

The city connects residents to a number of job programs – from day labor opportunities to short-term job training programs. These include:  

  • First Step Staffing
    First Step Staffing connects those experiencing homelessness to employment and provides transportation to employment sites. Residents interested in applying should visit the Christian Service Center in person Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to complete the application and intake process. Two current, valid forms of identification are needed.

  • Jobs Partnership of Florida
    LifeWorks by Jobs Partnership provides needed skills training and connections to resources and relevant job opportunities. LifeWorks is offered in Parramore on Thursday evenings at CrossTown Ministries, 430 South Parramore Avenue, Suite E.

  • CareerSource Central Florida
    Residents can request assistance online, by phone and by in-person appointment by calling 800.757.4598, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or book a time online.

  • BluePrint 2.0 Job Training Program
    In partnership with the Central Florida Urban League (CFUL), the BLUEPRINT program connects residents to more than 100 short-term job and vocational training programs. City residents can receive a training subsidy in the amount of $125 per week to help cover the costs of  housing, food and other needs while in their training program.  More information is available by calling 407.841.7654 or visiting cful.org.  

Downtown Clean Team

The Downtown Clean Team ensures our streets and sidewalks are clean and passable and their work includes daily trash pickup of more than 300 trash cans, sidewalk pressure washing and graffiti removal.  For information regarding the Downtown Clean Team, please contact 407.246.3603. 

Meal Programs  

Our community is fortunate to have many organizations that provide food items and community meals several times a day within downtown Orlando to ensure those who are experiencing homelessness do not go hungry. Between the Christian Service Center and Coalition for the Homeless alone, these two organizations estimate they serve 39,000 lunches and 73,000 dinners annually.  

Panhandling  

Recently, the city changed its solicitation ordinance in order to comply with a new Supreme Court ruling that found anti-panhandling laws elsewhere in the nation to be unconstitutional as it is considered a right of free speech. Despite this change to the city’s ordinance, the Orlando Police Department continues to enforce aggressive solicitation and harassment ordinances to include:  

  • Solicitation of a person using an ATM
  • Solicitation when blocking any legal parking area or structure
  • Solicitation with harassment or the intent to harass (uses the Florida Statutes definition of bullying)
  • Solicitation of a captive audience or after a refusal has been communicated (captive audience can be people in line waiting for a concert, people dining at a sidewalk café). 

If you witness aggressive panhandling, please notify the Orlando Police Department.