New Statistics Released Detailing Central Florida Homelessness
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A newer, more efficient method of countering homelessness has been concocted, in collaboration with Central Florida counties.
In January of this year, a study conducted by the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, titled Point-in-Time (PIT) Count provided an actual count of homeless individuals in Central Florida.
While the physical count takes place on the same day every year in January, months of work follow prior to the official release of information which is reported to federal partners.
This study will serve as a yearly gauge to capture the number of persons or families in a community who meet the federal definition of homeless, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
This year, the PIT Count found that 2074 homeless individuals in Central Florida were discovered to be homeless on the evening of the count.
“Our region’s efforts to house our homeless population is another example of the power of collaboration. Together with business and faith-based leaders, we have undertaken an extraordinary effort to change the model for housing the chronically homeless. I am proud that our community is developing coordinated, long-term solutions to address one of our region’s most complex challenges.” A statement from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs read.
One of the most compelling statistics from the 2017 Point-in-Time Count shows that while 555 chronically homeless people were housed in 2016, only 146 chronically homeless people entered our homeless system for the first time-- which gives the region a trajectory towards success.
Almost 200 chronically homeless individuals and 120 families into permanent housing so far in 2017. These examples of the region’s performance are part of the reason Central Florida scored highest in the state in the most recent application for HUD funding.
Pastor Joel Hunter, chair of the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness said, “I am proud of our community’s work to house our most vulnerable neighbors and I am encouraged by the system we are building through the efforts of the Homeless Services Network and the Commission. The number of volunteers who came out for this year’s Point-in-Time Count shows our community’s passion for ending homelessness, and their support – as well as the data they helped to collect -- will keep our focus where it should be: on helping to transform individual lives through housing.”
In 2015, the region engaged in a significant cross-jurisdictional effort to develop a better system for locating and connecting with vulnerable individuals who sleep outside or in other places not intended to be a home. Leaders in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, and the cities of Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford committed to increase the number of outreach workers employed through government or not-for-profit providers, and to increase the regional use of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is used to record homeless status and track program outcomes.
“The coordinated, cross-jurisdictional approach we are taking with all our partners in the region is the most logical way to address chronic homelessness. We continue to support this system as we work toward finding permanent housing solutions that work for Osceola County and its citizens.” A statement from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer read.
This commitment has generated exciting results in efforts to identify all people experiencing homelessness. Since the beginning of 2016, the number of agency staff entering information into HMIS has increased by roughly one third, resulting in a more thorough and coordinated identification of homeless individuals and families being served across the region.