Here’s what’s in Orlando’s 3-year plan to reduce homelessness

City partnering with homeless groups, expanding housing

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a growing concern all over Central Florida — more people facing homelessness.

Celeste Claywell said she’s trying her best to keep it all together but lately, her home has often been the streets of Orlando.

“It’s sad. Because so many people are homeless now,” said Claywell. “I’m probably just going to move out of Florida.”

According to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, in Orange County alone, more than 1,600 people are considered homeless. That number includes people living in shelters.

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The group also says there has been a 75% increase in people living on the streets in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties since before the pandemic — 587 people living and sleeping on the streets or in a car, not in a homeless facility, compared to 336 people in 2019.

On Monday, Orlando city commissioners unveiled their three-year-action plan aimed at reducing homelessness.

The city will use part of a $58 million federal grant to transform the former Ambassador Motel on the corner of Colonial Drive and Westmoreland into the Palm Gardens Apartments, opening soon with affordable housing units.

“We have to look at what’s the best use of the limited resources that we have, and I would contend that it would be ensuring that we have the affordable housing that is available,” said Orlando Commissioner Bakari Burns.

“I think we need to really protect our housing authority property and make sure that we add to the number of units available when they’re redeveloped,” said Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan.

The city is also investing in partnering with service providers like the Christian Service Center, the Coalition for the Homeless, and the Salvation Army.

“It’s not something that you can end, homelessness, you have to work on it every single day,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Dyer said the three-year plan also includes trying to add more affordable housing, especially with rising rent.

The plan also includes trying to reduce the number of people on the streets by 50%, expanding services and the facilities at shelters, working to add more programs like job training and rapid rehousing assistance, and continuing to work to make the streets cleaner and safer for everyone.

“Whenever the rent goes up $100, the general accounting office says that people in our community will see an 8% or 9% increase in people experiencing homeless,” said Martha Are, the CEO of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida and the Central Florida Coalition on Homelessness. “We want to get people into housing where we can help them as they struggle.”

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About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.