Homelessness, Children and Families

Families are the Foundation of our Community.

Children and families lie at the heart of our community. Commissioner Wilson serves on the Children and Families Advisory Board for Orange County, with direct oversight to find innovative ways to support our district’s future generations.

Commissioner Wilson believes those in particular need of support are children and families of minority identities and lower-income groups.

Youth and Family Services Division

Orange County’s Youth and Family Services Division serves on the front lines, supporting the most valuable resources of our community: children and families. Under this division, Orange County offers several essential services including youth shelters, family counseling, and mentoring.

Orange County Support and Services

Lavon Williams provides an overview of the Children and Family Services Divison and runs through the various County funded programs + Services that residents can apply for.

Commisisoner Wilson Serves as a Community Action Board Member. Here are the Programs:

Mental Health and Crisis Intervention: Click Here

According to the 2022 Orange County Mental and Behavioral Health System of Care Community Analysis: Over 50% of adults with mental illnesses do not seek treatment, 10% of youth in the U.S have severe depression with more than 60% of our Youth not receiving any mental health treatment.

Senior Citizen Support: Click Here

Orange County offers a variety of senior services. Orange County Parks and Recreation has created two locations that offer game rooms and fitness equipment for seniors. There are also multiple community centers that host many senior clubs. Senior TV programming is also offered throughout Orange County. Orange TV highlights local services, resources, and opportunities for seniors living in Central Florida.

Employment and Housing: Click Here

Small Business support programs: Partnership with various institutions to help incubate entrepreneurship throughout the County.

Mayor Demings established a Housing for All 10-year plan as well as an Affordable Housing Trust Fund Plan to establish support for future housing projects to add to the supply for affordable housing options.

Housing Rehabilitation & Repairs: Click Here

Orange County offers two different programs that provide funding to lower-income residents in urgent need of home repairs! Expand the below image for more info, or visit the link above to apply!

Homelessness in Central Florida

Orange County is experiencing a Housing and Mental Health Crisis.

The Florida poverty rate, which is around 12.7%, is above the national average and ranks Florida 32nd in the nation for people below the poverty line.  

Florida, for many years, has been lacking in promoting family economic security, consistently ranking low in many of these statistics. There are 36 affordable housing units for every 100 low income households. This puts Florida last for affordable housing, compared to the 49 other states. On average, 10.9 % of households were food insecure from 2017 to 2019. These people experienced difficulty providing food due to a lack of income. Overall, Florida ranks 28th in hunger and food insecurity. Source: https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/florida-2020-report/

The lack of affordable housing and increased cost of living in the state has led to Florida’s homelessness population increasing. Florida has an estimated 27,000 people that are experiencing homelessness on any given day. 5,000 of these people are experiencing chronic homelessness. 

Source: https://www.usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/fl/ 

One of the largest groups of homeless in Florida is children. Almost 55% of Florida’s 4 million children are living in or near poverty, or in households that are one missed paycheck away from not being able to meet basic needs. 

20% of Florida children are currently living in poverty. This ranks Florida in the bottom 15 states. The majority of the children are Black or Latinx. 

Children living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to dropping out of school, physical health problems, and abuse. 

Source: https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/florida-2020-report/ 

Emergency Rental Assistance Programs:

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many families struggling. To help those most in need, Orange County has offered emergency rental assistance programs. The most vulnerable tenants in the county (past-due on rent as a result of financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic) will be able to receive these programs. 

Funding Availability:

The funding made available for the emergency rental assistance programs will go directly to the landlords, on behalf of the tenant. The payments will:

  • Cover a tenant’s rent past due from the time period of April 2020 and up to 3 months of prospective rent. 
  • Assistance is limited to 12 months of arrears for past-due rent and up to three-months of prospective rent. Assistance can not exceed the program maximum of $30,000 per household. 
  • There cannot be any duplicative of any additional rental assistance received by the tenant or landlord for the tenant’s past-due rent. 

Tenant Eligibility:

  • Behind in rent for at least a month. 
  • Meet the program’s residency and location requirements. 
  • Household income can not exceed area median income.
  • They are experiencing housing instability.
  • Room rentals in homeowner occupied or homestead property are not eligible. 

For more information on how to apply for the emergency rental assistance programs, click here.

Homeless Diversion Programs:

Orange County has a number of programs to help fight homelessness. ​​Orange County has remained the single largest funder of public services for the homeless in Central Florida for years. Currently, Orange County funds more than $5 million annually for many services, including housing, supportive services, crisis assistance, eviction prevention, and mental health and substance abuse assessment.

The County has also been able to allocate $5 million to a new program called INVEST in Our Home for Life. With this program, the county is providing incentives to encourage the development of affordable housing. The goal is to accelerate the availability of affordable rental housing and to increase access to units for families in need in the county. 

Orange County and neighboring jurisdictions have also created the Homelessness Services Network of Central Florida and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. 

The Homeless Services Network is able to provide Housing and Urban Development funding to six counties in Central Florida. Orange County is one of these. HSN has been able to bring over $50 million to help fund the fight to end homelessness. These funds have gone to providing transitional and permanent housing, supportive services, and ongoing case management. 

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness was established in 2013 as a non-profit, with the goal of bringing awareness to the issue of homelessness in Central Florida. The Commission does this by educating the public on the issues facing homeless veterans, families, youth, and other individuals. 

For more information on the Homelessness Diversion Programs of Orange County, click here.

Patners Working with our Houseless Residents

Homelessness is a persistent issue here in District 1, and one we believe needs innovative solutions. Solving homelessness involves more than just providing affordable housing. It also requires providing support and care for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Matthew’s Hope serves Central Florida’s homeless community by providing resources like food security, haircuts, life and recovery skills, and work opportunities. Matthew’s Hope believes and understands that homelessness impacts individuals differently and that each person requires different levels of support to reach their goals.