ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando city officials launched an enhanced program this week that’s aimed at helping the homeless find resources they need.
Homeless shelters in Orange County reported a growing number of people are seeking temporary housing.
The issue of homelessness has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and a lack of affordable housing in the area.
While walking downtown, several residents have noted homeless people taking shelter under overpasses or on sidewalks.
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“I think they can be overlooked as individuals. Walk by on the street, and it’s really easy to do,” said Kelly Allen, marketing and communications manager for the city of Orlando’s downtown development board.
Allen said the city is honing in on the issue with the enhanced Downtown Ambassador Program.
The original program launched in 2018, and it’s objective was to provide resources to visitors and residents to help them navigate the city. At the time, only five of the ambassadors were trained in homeless outreach, but that number has since more than quadrupled.
“Today, with Allied Universal, we have 22 ambassadors that have been trained in homeless outreach strategies resources, as well as other items of care for downtown Orlando,” Allen said.
The group of ambassadors now wears bright blue shirts while providing on-street services.
With their specialized training, ambassadors connect people with local partners who assist the unhoused with social services like shelter, identification, counseling services and handing out needed supplies.
The group also helps those experiencing homelessness by providing access to transportation, like bus or train tickets.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to be reunified with family friends and other individuals,” Allen said.
Each encounter will be recorded so that ambassadors can match the individual’s needs with resources to provide a continuum of care.
“We strive to give compassion to all individuals, to all walks of life,” Allen said.
The ambassadors will be on the streets from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. They told News 6 that it’s a fulfilling job, though they can only provide help to those who want to be helped.
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