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In 2016, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs worked with a wide network of community partners to continue transforming the lives of chronically homeless Veterans and families.

In late January, a team of more than 160 trained volunteers, led by the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida (HSN), initiated the 2016 Point in Time Count (PIT) across Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. The PIT is an annual physical count of homeless individuals in a community, and serves as a gauge for the number of persons or families who meet the federal definition of homeless, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to numbers released in May by the HSN, the PIT census identified a one-year 23.6 percent decrease in the number of homeless individuals in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, as of January 27.

Mayor Jacobs continues to serve as co-chair of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (CFCH). This initiative works to combat homelessness and poverty issues throughout Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. As co-chair and leader of the Family Homelessness Committee, established in 2014, Mayor Jacobs strives to change the lives of homeless children, families and military Veterans. In her leadership role, she collaborates with advocates from the tri-county region and a wide network of partners to achieve these goals. A great example of this partnership is the 2015 CFCH’s Veterans Surge initiative, which identified 418 homeless Veterans in the region. The Surge was the first step of the “Heroes Come Home” initiative, which included locating homeless Veterans, housing and assisting them.

In June, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Executive Director Matthew Doherty thanked Mayor Jacobs and City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for their commitment to ending chronic veteran homelessness. USICH, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed that Orange County, as well as Osceola and Seminole counties, achieved the milestone of effectively ending chronic homelessness among Veterans. Through these efforts, Orange County answered former First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative, the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

Mayor Jacobs, along with Rulon Munns, chair of the Orange County Committee on Homelessness of the CFCH, and in partnership with Barbara Poppe, former executive director of the USICH, released the findings of a report on homelessness in Orange County. The report, titled Orange County Investment in Programs to Prevent and End Homelessness, was produced at the request of Mayor Jacobs and Committee Chair Munns. The Orange County Committee of CFCH is working tirelessly to make recommended changes, with a specific emphasis on affordable housing.

Through Mayor Jacobs’ INVEST in Our Home for Life initiative, there are multiple programs and projects aimed directly at expanding access and inventory of affordable housing, in order to address an acknowledged shortage in the region’s marketplace. Orange County's housing initiatives will receive $5 million over the next five years to help fund these efforts, including an Affordable Rental Housing project, which will create 70 brand-new affordable housing apartments, with 20 percent of the units dedicated to homeless and very low-income citizens.

Orange County's projected $2 million investment to the Wayne Densch Center, in partnership with Florida Hospital, Ability Housing, Wayne Densch Charities, the Central Florida Foundation and the Florida Community Loan Fund, will support the renovation of a facility, thereby providing a vital housing resource for families, including those who have challenges due to mental illness, addiction or physical disability. Additionally, the New Horizons Project in South Apopka, formerly known as Hawthorne Village, will provide 56 homes for low- and very low-income families in need of housing.

In May, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced that it was investing another $500,000 toward the Central Florida Foundation's Homelessness Impact Fund to help increase access to affordable rental housing. With this new investment, JPMorgan Chase has collectively committed more than $1.45 million to help impact homelessness in Central Florida. In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Housing Assistance Senate Bill 1534, which aims to further the “Housing First” approach and expedite efforts in housing chronically homeless families across the state. The bill also allows flexibility in the use of State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program funds for local governments to provide rental assistance to the homeless.

In October, Mayor Jacobs also hosted the Regional Affordable Housing Summit, which brought together planners, developers, local government leaders and others from across the region to discuss strategies that could help create more affordable housing options in Central Florida. The Regional Affordable Housing Summit tackled a wide variety of issues and solutions, and will be followed by a number of topic-specific workshops in 2017.

In Orange County and throughout Central Florida, significant efforts remain ongoing to align existing models with national best practices, which focus on a "Housing First" philosophy. Through the collaborative efforts of key stakeholders, including the business community, nonprofit providers, faith groups and regional jurisdictions, the tri-county area continues to focus on reducing veteran, chronic and family homelessness.


In May, Mayor Jacobs testified before U.S. Congress and Senate committees about the deadly impact heroin use poses to citizens in Orange County and provided insight and data based on the findings of Orange County’s Heroin Task Force.

To focus on the growing heroin problem, Mayor Jacobs formed the Orange County Heroin Task Force in 2015 and invited Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings to serve as co-chair. In March, the Task Force concluded its efforts, delivering 37 targeted recommendations, which included increased bond and trafficking penalties, a targeted social media campaign warning young people about the deadly nature of heroin, and additional education, training and treatment to fight the addiction. The Task Force also recommended expanding access to Naloxone, a life-saving drug used in severe overdose situations, and combining detox at the jail with "Medically Assisted Treatment," using the drug Vivitrol to fight heroin addiction.

In follow up to coordinated efforts by Orange County’s Legislative Delegation, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 1241 into law on March 27, allowing non-prescription access to Naloxone.

Also in March, along with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other national leaders, Mayor Jacobs testified at a special hearing on the nation’s heroin epidemic before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by former Congressman John Mica.


The effects of Hurricane Matthew impacted Orange County and the greater Orlando area during the early morning hours of October 7, 2016. The Category 3 hurricane was the first major storm to impact Central Florida since 2004.

The Orange County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated on October 6 to mobilize rapid response teams from partner agencies, local municipalities, utilities, roads, drainage, fire and rescue, and law enforcement to monitor and assess Hurricane Matthew. More than 1,400 citizens took refuge in Orange County shelters, including 80 citizens with special needs. These shelters opened with the support and coordination of Orange County Public Schools and the American Red Cross of Greater Orlando. To help prevent damage caused by stormwater, Orange County Public Works distributed more than 78,000 sandbags to area residents.

Through multiple platforms — including web updates, social media, live broadcasts of media briefings by Orange TV, and continuous updates pushed through Orange County's emergency notification and information smartphone apps (OCFL Alert and OCFL News) — Orange County provided critical information before, during and after the storm.


Through a comprehensive mosquito-borne illness public education and awareness campaign, Orange County Government’s Mosquito Control continues to proactively work to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. In July, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy joined Mayor Jacobs for a tour of Orange County’s Mosquito Control and discussed ongoing mosquito-borne illness prevention efforts. Federal funds have allowed Orange County’s Mosquito Control Division to hire 10 additional employees to assist with field work, as well as help residents become aware of the vital role they play in eradicating breeding locations for Zika-transmitting mosquitoes by tossing standing water near homes and businesses.

Zika is a virus that can be transmitted by two types of mosquitoes prevalent in Florida, the Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever mosquito) or Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger mosquito). These mosquitoes are day biters and are drawn to standing water in small containers typically found around homes and businesses — not large bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.

Orange County’s Mosquito Control field team works proactively to eliminate sources of standing water such as pool tarps, tires, buckets, empty flower pots and other small containers. These efforts help in eliminating the possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In the summer, Mayor Jacobs hosted a series of Zika informational sessions with educators and local commercial business owners to discuss ongoing mosquito control efforts and Zika preparedness in Orange County. Orange County Health Services Department Director Dr. Chris Hunter provided in-depth presentations on the Zika virus, how residents and visitors can protect themselves, and what local businesses and homeowners can do to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

Mayor Jacobs also joined lawmakers for a number of Zika roundtable discussions in August. The panels of federal, state and local elected officials spoke with community leaders and Mosquito Control officials about prevention, the need for increased funding and the implementation of educational programs for a proactive approach toward combating the Zika virus.

In September, $1.1 billion was approved by the U.S. Congress to continue national efforts in combating Zika. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson championed these initiatives.

Orange County has invested $60,000 in promoting Zika prevention and awareness and highlighted the “Tip, Toss and Cover” campaign in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole. Advertising placements included radio, public transit, movie theaters, community publications, digital, mobile and social media.

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is the lead agency for the monitoring of infectious disease within the state of Florida. Citizens may contact the FDOH for the most current information on reports of the Zika virus in Florida. The Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) is the lead federal partner. Citizens may visit the CDC website for information on the Zika virus.

For more information on Zika, visit Orange County Government’s website. Digital materials in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole are available in Orange County’s Zika Toolbox.


In 2015, there were 161 human trafficking related arrests made in Orange County. District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke first brought this issue to the Board of County Commissioners last year. Orange County is launching a pilot program designed to support female victims of human trafficking and will include a safe space for them to live temporarily. The shelter will provide up to 10 beds, along with the appropriate support services, and will be the first crisis shelter in the state designated exclusively for victims of human trafficking. The pilot program is slated to launch in 2017.


Mayor Jacobs brought together journalists and reporters with advocates from the mental health community to Orange County’s Shatter the Stigma event, a forum focused on mental health education and compassionate media coverage. Speakers included Mental Health Association of Central Florida President and CEO Candice J. Crawford, Chief Psychologist of Orange County Corrections Department Dr. Leonard Branch, journalist and mental health advocate Mark Joyella and University of Central Florida Nicholson School of Communication Professor Rick Brunson.

The panelists’ dialogue focused on how the media can diffuse the stigma associated with mental illness. The conversation also touched on how individuals and organizations can create an environment that supports those with mental illness, starting with treating mental illness as they would any other physical illness.


In April, members of Orange County's Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Commission hosted a Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Summit to focus on child abuse prevention and awareness, and to promote the well-being of children and families in the community.

The summit's community discussion on how to prevent child abuse used the "Community Café" approach, a model that focuses on strengthening families by creating stronger partnerships with parents and communities through meaningful conversations with child advocate agencies. This approach is being practiced in neighborhoods, early learning and child care settings, schools, faith-based organizations and social service systems.

First established in 2005, Orange County’s Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Commission initially developed new strategies and initiatives to address the scourge of domestic violence in Orange County. The Commission examined the procedures and processes in domestic violence offenses, from the initial call to law enforcement through post-sentencing. In 2015, the Commission expanded its focus — and its name — to include child abuse prevention because research indicates that 80 percent of those battered also have children who are abused.


In May, Orlando hosted the 2016 Invictus Games at Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Featuring wounded warriors from all over the world, the Olympic-style competition is the only international adaptive sporting event for injured active duty and veteran service members. The opening ceremony featured His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales, former First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Morgan Freeman and musical guests, including James Blunt, Laura Wright and several military performances. The ceremony kicked off the Games, which continued through May 12.

Two Central Florida veterans competed as part of the U.S. team. New Smyrna Beach native Michael Roggio, a retired Petty Officer 3rd Class from the U.S. Navy. The former Navy rescue swimmer represented the U.S. swim team and was one of eight competitors in the men's 100-meter freestyle event. Javier Rodriguez, retired Chief Petty Officer from the U.S. Navy, is from St. Cloud and competed in wheelchair basketball. Rodriguez was one of 113 active duty and veteran athletes representing the U.S. team during the Invictus Games.

The U.S. team received gold medals in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby. The U.S. team also won first place in the powerlifting, indoor rowing, cycling, swimming, and track and field events.


The Lone Sailor Navy Memorial of Central Florida was unveiled by Mayor Jacobs and community leaders at a dedication ceremony to honor veterans and active military personnel. The Central Florida Navy League (CFNL) coordinated the ceremony, which drew residents from across the region. In 2009, a community effort was initiated to honor the courage and sacrifice of those who began their naval careers in Orange County at the former Orlando Naval Training Center. Nearly $450,000 was raised for the Lone Sailor Memorial, with Orange County Government contributing $100,000 toward the monument.

The monument is the 14th Lone Sailor Memorial in the nation and the first to be placed on former Navy grounds. According to the CFNL, more than 650,000 sailors trained at the Orlando Naval Training Center, which contributed greatly to Orlando’s economy and the nation’s safety and military readiness.


Orange County Government is developing the local Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan for the Public Rights-of-Way, otherwise known as the ADA Transition Plan. Orange County Public Works is responsible for managing pedestrian facilities throughout County-maintained rights-of-way. These typically include sidewalks, pedestrian paths, street crossings, crosswalks, curb ramps, driveway crossings and pedestrian-activated traffic signal systems. The ADA Transition Plan will ensure that public infrastructure in Orange County is accessible for all. The plan will change sidewalks, curb ramps, street crossings, crosswalks, driveway crossings and pedestrian-activated traffic signal systems in compliance to ADA design standards.


In August, Orange County Government and Florida Solar United Neighborhoods provided Orange County homeowners looking to add solar power to their homes the opportunity to do so through a new solar co-op program. Solar co-ops provide bulk discounts — up to 20 percent — for a group of homeowners who are interested in purchasing solar panels for their homes. To learn more about the program, please visit the Florida Solar United Neighborhoods website.


In July, Orange County's Parks and Recreation Division held a grand opening ceremony for the Deputy Brandon Coates Community Park. The park was officially dedicated in memory of Orange County Sheriff's Deputy First Class Brandon Lee Coates, who tragically lost his life in the line of duty in December 2010. The mile-wide property is situated in Orange County District 1, along the border of District 4, south of the Deerfield community, with John Young Parkway on the west and Orange Blossom Trail on the east. Park amenities include two multi-purpose fields, a playground, walking path, concrete skate spot, picnic pavilion, restrooms and paved parking.


Kelly Park located in Apopka, was awarded a state historic marker in February. The sanctuary of wildlife and woodlands is 89 years old and its 390 acres are home to Camp Joy and Rock Springs. On hand to help unveil the historic marker was William Woollcott Kelly, grandson of Dr. Howard Kelly, the last private owner of Kelly Park. He explained that his grandfather was drawn to Florida by the variety of flora and fauna found here, and that he spent much time exploring the land. A friend in Eustis, B. Martin Kinser, introduced Dr. Kelly to Rock Springs around 1921, when the property was about to be sold by a lumber company to a buyer intending to mine the limestone for road construction. Dr. Kelly bought the property “to save it from improvement” and decided to gift the land to Orange County in 1927 so others could enjoy it.


In April, the Florida Film Festival celebrated 25 years of bringing together aspiring and seasoned filmmakers, celebrities and cinema enthusiasts by showcasing films that represent countries, culture and stories from around the globe. The Florida Film Festival, hosted at the Enzian Theater, celebrates diverse filmmaking talent and screens films that represent 36 countries; with 33 percent of films directed by females in 2016. The 10-day festival was sponsored by Full Sail University, Orange County Government and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.


Mayor Jacobs joined community leaders at La Prensa's ninth annual Mujeres Destacadas (Women Who Make a Difference) Awards Ceremony, honoring exemplary women and their achievements. La Prensa, the oldest Hispanic newspaper in Central Florida, launched the Mujeres Destacadas Awards in 2007 as a way to recognize extraordinary Hispanic women who make a difference in the lives of many people in our community.

Three award finalists were selected in five achievement categories. The winners announced at the event included Olga González for community leadership, Daisy López-Cid for business and technology, Rosa Cintrón for education, Adamar González-Figueroa for health and Melissa Lanzo for arts and culture.


Mayor Jacobs launched a Neighborhood Challenge as a fun, free program to help residents and neighborhood groups join in friendly competition to improve their community. The goal of the Neighborhood challenge was to drive the community toward a greener, healthier and more involved future. A total of nine groups competed by completing projects under three themes: community involvement, green practices and healthy neighborhoods. The Pine Castle Safe Communities Preservation Association was awarded the Most Involved Neighborhood award at the 2016 Community Conference; the South Pointe Action Group Association received the Greenest Neighborhood recognition; and Eastbrook Homeowners Association was recognized as the Healthiest Neighborhood.


Robert Scambia was honored by Mayor Jacobs, the Board of County Commissioners, Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Otto Drozd III and Kleenex for his selfless service to the firefighters of Orange County. Chef Rob, as he is affectionately known by the Fire Rescue crews, lost a friend among the 343 firefighters killed in the devastating September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since that fateful day, he has made it his mission to cook for fire stations across Florida as a tribute to those who were lost on 9/11 and as a tribute to local heroes who continue to serve their communities daily.

Kleenex featured Scambia's story on their "Someone Needs One" marketing campaign. His recipe book, "A Hero's Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes Inspired by True Heroism," is available through the Orange County Firefighters Benevolent Fund online store and proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit, which gives financial assistance to firefighters in need.