Thoughts From Our Staff: The Perfect Storm of Tremendous Need
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Just speaking from the heart, I hope you will bear with me for this article. While we have over 400 adults experiencing homelessness visit our campuses everyday, and I see their destitution up close, the most heartbreaking thing happening at the moment is happening over the phone. In the last month we have received over 300 requests for rental assistance, a record for our organization. There has been a perfect storm, if you forgive the analogy, in that Orlando has seen an inordinate number of families financially impacted by Hurricane Ian while at the same time, funds for rental assistance from Federal, State and Local sources have all dried up.
The Christian Service Center is one of five nonprofits in the area that help with rental assistance, and I believe we are the most efficient at this process. The challenge is that it is an expensive and complex process. Anyone seeking rental assistance must meet a mountain of criteria required by our different private, nonprofit and government funding sources. In fact, each of our applicants has to provide 14 different documents, prove that they have income such that they won’t require help again the next month, and they can not have received any assistance in the last five years. The 300 requests we received in September ALL met this criteria, but we were only able to help 20 families because we simply lack the funds. The average amount that people request for assistance is $1,600.
I no longer refer to our program as a rental assistance program, I call it our Homeless Prevention program because that is it’s main purpose…to keep families off the streets. The calls we get range from tearful to rageful and everywhere in between. The perfect storm of problems is exacerbated by the fact that Orlando is one of the worst affordable housing markets in the nation. Anytime a landlord has a vacancy, they typically have a line of people applying. This decreases the incentive for landlords to even accept third party assistance like a check from the Christian Service Center. I don’t want to vilify all landlords because many of them are great to work with, but an increasing number simply refuse to take our payment, because they know if they evict someone, then they can simply raise the rent for the next tenant.
What can you do about all of this? Being aware of the crisis brewing in our community is a good first step as all business, organizational, and elected leaders need to be aware of the challenge. You can also donate to our organization as we work to build more private resources to help more people. Every $1,600 we can raise is one more family we can keep off the streets. We’re working on better long-term solutions, but until then, thank you for listening to me talk about the crisis we’re seeing in motion.
Have a suggestion or want to hear more about the challenges of funding homeless prevention? Call Eric at 407-797-7755 or email him at email@example.com.