‘The need is great:’ Orlando nonprofits struggle to help growing homeless population

Organization say lack of affordable housing behind increased demand for help

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Coalition for the Homeless in Central Florida has been able to assist a growing number of people experiencing homelessness with funds from the federal CARES Act program, but the organization said the money is set to expire by September, which could lead to a rise in the number of people struggling to find housing.

“When you walk around downtown Orlando, I think you see more people and we’re certainly seeing more at the shelter level,” said Allison Krall, CEO & president of the Coalition for the Homeless.

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In 2021, the organization said it saw 538 more people enter their homeless services system than exit out if it, and the lack of affordable housing across Central Florida is just adding to the crisis.

“There is so few units available for folks who are on the lower end of the pay scale,” Krall said. “Their rate of pay has certainly not kept up with the increases in rent and just in the last year, from December of 2020 through November of 2021, rent across the tri-county area across Central Florida raised 18.9%.”

This is the same issue the nonprofit Family Promise of Greater Orlando hears from the people they offer services to.

“We typically would serve 75 families a year, and in 2021 we were able to serve over 200 families, so we know the need is great. We’re seeing families who are paying up to 50% of their income on rent alone and it’s very hard to make ends meet that way and then increases in gas prices and increases in groceries,” said Kathie Southern, the executive director for Family Promise. “We’ve seen some families, you know, 8, 9 members of a family, and we cannot find housing that is an affordable rate.”

And while the Coalition for the Homeless and Family Promise are doing their part to battle the homeless crisis through different programs and resources, pastor Cilphonose Salomon of Eglise de Dieu D’operation de la Benediction church organizes food distribution events to help less-fortunate families put food on the table.

“God put love on my heart to do it and I love to do it and I’m glad when I do it,” Salomon said. He sets up a U-Haul outside a shopping center parking lot in Orlando’s Pine Hills area, where he loads up cars with basic food.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said they’re working to address the gap in homeless services after receiving the results of a study done by the Heart of Florida United Way.

“We look at our homeless, a disproportionate number them are mentally ill, and they also have substance disorders,” Demings said. “We have the plan, we have the report, and we’re now building the plan to address that, where there are gaps in those services.”

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.