Facing possible eviction? Here’s where you can find help in Central Florida

Agencies prepare to help more people who are behind on rent

ORLANDO, Fla. – Six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the moratorium on evictions, Central Florida deputies are starting to serve more notices to vacate renters behind on their rent.

Justices made their decision to stop the moratorium on Aug. 26.

According to numbers provided by sheriff’s offices in Orange, Osceola, Flagler, Volusia, Marion, Sumter, Lake, Brevard and Seminole counties, deputies executed 25% more evictions in September compared to August, when the eviction moratorium was still in effect.

Community organizations are stepping in to help prevent an avalanche of people who suddenly find themselves with no place to live.

“I was literally caught with nothing, and that’s never happened to me before. Ever. Not like that,” Neida Caro-Boone said.

Caro-Boone and her husband Jonathan said their full-time jobs were not enough to pay their rent, support their two children, pay for Neida’s medical bills and save for the future.

The Boone family found themselves suddenly homeless and turned to the Christian Service Center of Central Florida for help. (Courtesy: Neida Caro-Boone / Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

In July, the family of four found themselves out on the street.

“No one really knows the stress of being homeless until you are actually in it,” said their daughter, Regina.

Their son, Jonathan, added, “It didn’t really hit me until we got to the hotel, and I realized we could be homeless.”

Eric Gray, CEO of the Christian Service Center in Orlando, said the family was desperate.

In her 25 years of marriage, Caro-Boone said that was the first time in her life she didn’t know where she was going to sleep.

“It scared the bejesus out of me,” said her husband.

Gray said his organization had already helped thirteen times more families than they had during their busiest year. Now that the eviction moratorium has ended, his staff is seeing more calls for help.

“You are talking about the worst possible scenario someone can imagine in their lives – having complete destitution, nowhere to go, no help, no idea where your next meal is going to come from,” Gray continued. “There are a lot of people in this community, unfortunately, where they’re struggling with that exact situation today.”

Allison Krall, President and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization just across the street from Gray, has also noticed a flood of homelessness cases.

“We are definitely seeing an uptick in folks seeking assistance,” Krall explained.

According to Krall, last year, her agency helped nearly 300 families avert homelessness.

“We have conversations with every single client or every single person who enters our doors to see if they have any other options outside of the homeless services system,” she said. “If they do, we make those connections, and ensure they are safe.”

These two organizations are part of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, a network of organizations that helps people living in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

When one organization may not be able to help, another will step in.

To accomplish this, the agencies are using some federal COVID-19 funding and grants, but they said a lot of it also comes from private donations.

Thanks to the assistance of the Christian Service Center, the Caro-Boones recently moved into a new apartment secured by the organization, but the family pays the rent.

“They helped us get our foot in the door,” Caro-Boone said. “It’s now up to us to maintain it. That’s all we really wanted.”

Leaders at both Christian Service Center and Coalition for the Homeless urge people in all counties who are at risk of becoming homeless to call 211 for assistance.

Here are links to organizations that may be able to offer help:

The Christian Service Center is asking for the following donations to help families avert homelessness:

  • Men’s casual clothing. – Many of our clients on campus are men (70%) and most are malnourished and burning through clothing fast because they wear the same articles of clothing for weeks at a time.  Most donated clothing comes from women and most is dress clothing.  We need the opposite.
  • Access to affordable housing. – We need landlords who have vacancies and are willing to rent their apartment to one of our clients.  We’re paying the bill for anywhere from one to 12 months and in some cases permanently if the client is severely disabled.  We have trouble finding available apartments in Orange County.
  • Funds to bridge the rental gap. – Some of our funds will allow us to pay $1,100/month for an apartment, but the one bedroom apartments we can find require $1,400 a month.  We need private funds to bridge the gap.  Often times we are placing people into an apartment and just helping them with the first six months to get them on their feet.  That extra $1,800 ($300 x 6 months) means the difference for someone living on the street and not.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.