Report investigates Orange County homeless spending

Report finds almost half of funds may not help the homeless

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A report released Wednesday on how Orange County spends money on homeless prevention programs found almost half of the funds may not help the homeless.

Orange County is spending $7.7 million this year on homeless prevention programs.

"With the amount of money we invest every year to help those most in need in our community, it's extremely important that we spend those dollars as effectively as possible," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.

According to the report, almost half of the funds, $3.4 million, is being spent on programs that may not help solve the long term homeless problem.

"That money wasn't wasted. It just wasn't focused in a housing for the homeless program and that's something Orange County is going to take a hard look at," Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness said.

Jacobs says that money went toward helping financially struggling families, particularly during the recession. She adds those funds recently shifts to help the homeless and it is her responsibility to make sure the money is spent appropriately.

"It's incumbent upon me to make sure we're using our resources as best as we possibly can," the mayor said.

The audit also says many of the programs do not keep track of what happens to the people they serve and suggests they all start collecting that data.

"That way you have a better picture of homelessness across the whole community, but you also have greater accountability for program monitoring to make sure they're achieving results," Barbara Poppe, the independent consultant hired to conduct the report said.

The report also found the county needs to shift its focus on transitional housing to a more permanent solution.

"There will always be a need for some shelters because there will always be situations where we can't get somebody immediately into housing, but I don't see that expanding. I see the expansion of our efforts is going toward rapid rehousing, towards permanent supporting housing, housing first," Jacobs said.

The county keeping track of each dollar and making sure the funds go to help our most vulnerable neighbors in need.

"Now we have to make sure every resource is aligned with those steps and we're getting the most money to help families in need," Bailey said.

Jacobs says many changes with the programs are already in the works. She expects funding loss, if any, for these programs will be limited.

About the Author: