For the past several years, most of the neighbors in need who came to us for help were not experiencing homelessness yet. They were struggling families, single mothers, desperate fathers…the working poor who barely manage to live paycheck to paycheck. Our small team of case managers (two in Parramore, one in West Orange and one in Winter Park) worked tirelessly to provide what we consider “short-term crisis assistance” to help these families weather unexpected financial crises including getting their past due utility bills and rent current, supplying grocery food, hygiene items, clothing vouchers, bus passes, and offering referrals to other agencies, all geared toward driving Central Florida residents to longer-term solutions.
During the pandemic in 2020, our Family & Emergency Services program embraced the “housing first” philosophy and partnered with Homeless Services Network (HSN) to hire a Rapid Re-housing (RRH) Case Manager. Since last year, nearly all the calls we receive are for help with rent and utilities or to help someone find an apartment or permanent housing. This year, we added two more RRH case managers and set a goal for the number of clients we would get into housing by Dec. 31.
At our Downtown Orlando campus in Parramore, we also pivoted a lead case manager to serve as Diversion Specialist. Haggeo Gautier engages with guests on campus to assess their needs. It is no fast or easy task to get people on the street to open up and tell you their struggles. This is “diversion,” ascertaining whether someone needs mental healthcare, or placement into a job, or perhaps they qualify for assistance with SNAP or a number of other programs available through our ministry of services and on-site partners.
We have made great progress over the past year in our plan to become Orlando’s first Comprehensive Day Services Center. But, there is much more to be done – strategically, structurally, and operationally – on our campuses. What role can you play? We invite you to come see for yourself and join us in 2022 during this exciting evolution as we shift from short-term homeless prevention to long-term homeless elimination.