Orange County remains committed to ensuring that homelessness is limited to
a brief, one time occurrence. To accomplish such a goal, Orange County and
neighboring jurisdictions have worked together through the Homeless Services Network (HSN) of Central Florida and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (CFCH) through a
structure called the “Continuum of Care” (CoC). This helps align
services and planning in conjunction with federal funding throughout
Central Florida. Through this design, government organizations work side by
side with other regional private, faith-based and public partners. Here in
Central Florida the CoC includes: Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties,
along with the cities of Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford.
Together with advocates from the tri-county region, Orange County is
committed to finding solutions for those experiencing homelessness. In
Central Florida, three key demographic populations have been identified
among homeless populations: children and families, the chronically homeless
and Veterans. A better understanding of what leads to homelessness among
these populations, as well as the unique challenges they face in ending
their homelessness, has been critical.
In 2013, Orange County began a regional engagement to define best practices
and the community cost of homelessness. Orange County’s delegation traveled
to communities like Salt Lake City and Houston to learn from their success.
Orange County also commissioned a series of reports helped local leaders
better grasp the depth of homelessness in Central Florida. Key initiatives
like the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homeless, Housing the First 100
and Impact Families are just a few examples of how local leaders continue
to work together to help Central Floridians facing or experiencing
In recent years, Orange County, along with communities across the nation,
realigned the investment of homeless services and initiatives with the
federal housing-first model. Housing-first is an approach to end
homelessness that centers on facilitating permanent housing first and then
providing services and resources as needed.
Orange County Government remains the single largest funder of public
services for the homeless in Central Florida. Currently, Orange County
funds more than $5 million annually for a vast array of services, including
housing, supportive services, crisis assistance, eviction prevention, and
mental health and substance abuse assessment.
In FY 2016-2017, Orange County budgeted more than $4.5 million dollars for
targeted family and homeless services, as part of the overall strategy to
impact homelessness. Additionally, Orange County has allocated a total of
$5 million of INVEST in Our Home for Life funds, to be leveraged
with other resources to create new affordable units for low- and very
HOMELESS SERVICES NETWORK
Homeless Services Network (HSN)
of Central Florida is the lead agency for the Central Florida continuum of
care. It provides Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for six
jurisdictions including Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties and the
cities of Orlando, Sanford and Kissimmee. Established in 1993, HSN has
brought more than $50 million in HUD, Veterans Administration (VA) and
state of Florida funds to Central Florida to provide assistance to the
homeless. HSN funds programs that provide transitional and permanent
housing, supportive services and ongoing case management.
CENTRAL FLORIDA COMMISSION ON HOMELESSNESS
The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness was re-established as
a non-profit organization in 2013, helping to bring advocacy and awareness
to the conversation of homelessness in Central Florida. The Commission
continues to inform and inspire the community to act on the issues facing
homeless Veterans, families, youth and other homeless individuals. Their Cardboard Stories initiative, through the Commission’s Rethink
Homelessness campaign, had wide-spread reach on social media and is
credited with helping to place a compassionate face to the conversation of
homelessness among the Central Florida community.