Central Florida leaders announce new campaign to help homeless veterans

‘No Veteran Left Behind’ aims to provide housing

ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida leaders are announcing a new campaign Wednesday aimed at helping homeless veterans.

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness held a news conference at 2 p.m. on “No Veteran Left Behind,” a campaign to “rapidly re-house low-income veterans experiencing homelessness and help those at risk of homelessness.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari and Osceola County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb are part of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and will be discussing the initiative.

Officials said efforts in the new campaign are possible due to increased funding for the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida from Veterans Affairs.

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“The VA is awarding the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida $6.7 million – double the previous grant – to address this issue. The funding will be used to increase the amount of services available and ensure that veterans and their families receive faster support to resolve their housing instability,” the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness said in a release.

Martha Are, executive director at the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, spoke on the need for Central Florida to focus on veteran homelessness.

“And now it’s the time that central Florida will engage in the final push to ensure that our veterans receive the support that they need, and that they deserve. Thanks to existing funding from the US Department of Veteran Affairs as well as new awards to several community partners, from several veteran programs that the VA will be announcing soon,” Are said.

Kris Vite, an outreach worker with the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, said the Orlando VA Medical Center is working towards a goal to permanently house 549 veterans by December 31.

“As of April 30 2023, the VA along with our community partners have already met 40.8% of that goal and housed 224 veterans,” Vite said.

According to the release, nearly 1,500 Central Florida veterans were helped by Supportive Services for Veteran Families, one of the main programs available to address veteran homelessness, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2022.

U.S. Army Veteran Michael Spivey is one of the many veterans who has been helped by the community partners of the Homeless Service Network of Central Florida. After serving four years, Spivey said he struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.

“Not being able to admit that I was struggling with mental health issues, and I kept believing that the substances were helping me, so with that combination there, it’s never going to get better,” Spivey said.

Spivey went to The Transition House, where he was able to recover and find his way out of homelessness.

“My recovery has been the greatest thing I have ever had,” Spivey said. “I’ve never been able to be as happy as I am today. I really do give thanks to the VA and the Transition House for the opportunity that I have gotten because without them, I would probably be dead.”

If you are a veteran in need of assistance, click here to be taken to a list of Central Florida resources.

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About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Jacob joined ClickOrlando.com in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.