Orange County Government, Florida
27 October 2014
Community Leaders Travel to Houston for Learning and Sharing Experience on Homelessness
Mayor Teresa Jacobs discusses homelessness issues
among community leaders and elected officials in Houston.
(Photo: Mark Ashman Photography)

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness recently embarked on a learning and sharing experience in Houston to engage in an ongoing dialogue regarding the city’s development of an integrated system to address homelessness.

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness is co-chaired by Mayor Jacobs and City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and consists of a 72-member delegation of elected officials, business and community leaders including Jacob Stuart of the Central Florida Partnership, Andrae Bailey of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, community leader Dick Batchelor, Diana Bolivar of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and dozens more.

The delegation visited Houston on October 7 and 8.

“In addition to learning about best practices shared by our counterparts in Houston to address issues of homelessness, we are committed to helping the children and families in Central Florida who are homeless and provide our citizens a better quality of life,” Mayor Jacobs said.

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness serves as a catalyst to mobilize community awareness regarding homelessness and poverty in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. City of Houston officials and New Hope Housing, an organization that offers permanent supportive housing for individuals who live alone and have low income, shared their region’s long-term solutions with the Central Florida delegation. Houston has significantly reduced its homeless population and has established itself as a model community in providing life stabilization options for the homeless and low income families.

“Over time, this type of housing has had countless benefits. Bringing humanity to a group of people who have seen far too little of it,” said Joy Horak-Brown, Executive Director of New Hope Housing in an interview describing the community trip. “In the city of Houston alone, we spend more than $100 million a year on chronic and street homelessness. We are excited to know that Orlando is working to put a stop to its homeless problem as well.”

The Commission toured Rittenhouse, one of New Hope Housing’s permanent housing communities with 160 single-occupancy units. Many of the residents there have lived on the streets for years before getting help through the housing program. Currently, Rittenhouse provides residents access to on-site attractive communal living areas and business centers.

The delegation left informed, energized and inspired to realign services so that what the region provides is consistent with what is needed to overcome chronic homelessness.

Watch a full recap of the community trip to Houston.