ORLANDO, Fla. – Since the start of 2022, more and more families struggling are looking for help from nonprofits. This includes the Heart of Florida United Way, which recently said its 2-1-1 crisis hotline has seen an uptick in the number of working families that can’t keep up with their rent or mortgage payments.
“There is no doubt that when a mom calls and says, ‘I need rental assistance. I’m not gonna make this payment,’ that mom is going through a mental crisis,” said Nancy Álvarez, senior vice president of community relations and equity impact for the organization. “From January to May, almost 40% of the phone calls that we were getting into our 2-1-1 call center were related in some way to housing. Under that category you have, ‘We need rental assistance. We have nowhere to go. We need shelter.’”
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According to the nonprofit, 46% of households in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties find it challenging to make ends meet.
“If you’re a mom and you’re facing that rent payment and you can’t make it and you don’t know where you’re gonna go, if your landlord kicks you out, that is stress, that is anxiety, that is fear,” Álvarez said.
And the pandemic has made it difficult for many families to be able to cover their basic needs as the cost of living outpaces their income.
“Depending on that phone call, depending on that need, our 2-1-1 specialists can then connect them with the right organization, with the right nonprofit,” Álvarez said.
As the City of Orlando faces a crisis in affordable housing, Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city has invested $43 million the past five years to create and preserve housing options, in addition to looking into existing development policies.
“We’ve streamlined a lot of our review process to make that easier. We’ve looked at some of our policies that allow easier development of townhomes and granny flats so those are the things in the backyard of somebody’s house that we hadn’t looked that kindly on,” Dyer said.
Community leaders realize it’s an issue that can’t be resolved overnight or within a few days.
“It’s gonna take all of us. It’s gonna take private sector, government and nonprofit organizations working together,” Álvarez said. “So, we can all come together in a way where we’re not just talking about it anymore but acting, right? We have to act.”
On Monday, May 16, Heart of Florida United Way will present a State of Our Families event to key community leaders so they can learn what Central Florida families are experiencing.
For ticket information and the event time visit this website.