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Family Promise of Greater Orlando brings hope to homeless families

More than 31,000 Floridians homeless last year, report says

ORLANDO, Fla. – Thousands of Central Floridians are impacted by homelessness each day.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported more than 31,000 Floridians were part of the homeless population.

Homelessness is a situation many struggle to get out of, but with the help of a nonprofit organization, families in Central Florida are finding hope that they'll get back on their feet.

Kenyatta Rogers recently got custody of his 11-year-old daughter and had been living with his wife at a relative's home. After that relative moved away, Rogers' family became homeless. 

"We went to a few other places and they kept giving us the runaround. 'Oh, we don't do that here.' They'd refer us to somewhere else," Amy Scarpa said in describing her search for help. That's when she went online and came upon Family Promise.

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"As soon as we got here, they got her straight in school 'cause that was my most concern, is getting her back in school," Rogers said. "We're thankful that we found this place. They take care of us. We're safe."

Tia Aery, the executive director of Family Promise of Greater Orlando, said the organization provides emergency shelters and meals for homeless families in the facilities of its faith-based partners.

"They'll convert classrooms or meeting rooms into bedrooms where a family can stay for a week at a time and then they go on to the next congregation on Sunday," Aery said.

Members of the national organization, which has 200 affiliates across the country, are thankful for the work done by congregations and are looking to expand those partnerships. 

"We're currently searching for some more congregations to be involved in our network. We have about 600 volunteers that are in this program and most of them are volunteering through their own congregation. So please, if you're part of a congregation, talk to your pastor or clergy. We are interfaith so you know, we want all faiths represented," Aery said.

Currently, about 20 congregations work with the Orlando affiliate and hundreds of volunteers pitch in to help with meal preps and keep the kids entertained with activities. 

"One of the things we know is that, that homelessness has adverse effects on children, so we want to try to minimize the effects of shelter and experience of homelessness," Aery said.

Kelly Driver, the case manager for the Orlando affiliate, said homelessness is such a big issue in Central Florida because so many move here thinking they will struggle less. 

"It is just an enormous amount of homeless families basically because Central Florida is transient. A lot of people come from different areas thinking that they would have more resources here, more resources are needed," Driver said. 

The nonprofit is not only getting results through emergency shelters, it assists with a rapid rehousing program to place families in stable housing within 30 days.

"The idea is to get a family directly into housing with no barriers, so there's no requirement that they have an income to start with. There's no requirement that they attend parenting classes or they do anything," Aery said.

Caseworkers also help them get back into the workforce.

"We are getting results and what we're doing right now is, as we work with the families, we are identifying first if they're unemployed, we are looking at places and working with other resources within the community to get them employment," Driver said. "There are many families that are struggling and these are good people and they're wanting to have a stable life -- a safe place for their children."

Aery said it's a community effort.

"It's just so important. We wouldn't exist without the help of all our donors -- without the help of all these congregations and people that really have a heart to give," Aery said.

To make a donation or volunteer, visit FamilyPromiseOrlando.org.

You can also help by donating move-in kits, with items like pot and pans, plates, sets of dishes for a family of four, silverware and cleaning supplies.


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