Orange County Government, Florida
Andrae Bailey, CEO, Central Florida Commission on Homelessness
(407) 456-0605
Email: andrae@impacthomelessness.org
23 December 2015
Application to US Interagency Council on Homelessness by Regional Leaders, CFCH, HSN and VA declares a “Zero Rate” for Chronically Homeless Veterans in Central Florida
13 remaining chronically homeless Veterans are in the final stages of housing; system built to house others as needed

Orange County, FL - In fulfillment of a pledge made in 2014 through the “25 Cities Initiative” (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and the “Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness” (U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan) to identify and house chronically homeless veterans in the metro Orlando area, the Central Florida region will report this week that it has achieved an effective “zero rate” for chronically homeless Veterans. Specifically, in accordance with the HUD definition of chronic homelessness (a person with a diagnosed mental or physical disability and homeless for at least one year), effective today, there are 13 remaining chronically homeless Central Florida veterans identified and still in the process of finalizing housing– an effective rate of zero.

The effective zero-rate has been achieved by specifically identifying and locating homeless Veterans, and connecting them earned benefits, primarily through the VA. This "Housing First" strategy for helping veterans around the region has seen over 700 Chronically Homeless veterans now living in Permanent Supportive Housing.

Primary partners in this initiative have been the VA, the Heart of Florida United Way’s “Mission United” initiative, the Homeless Services Network (the tri-county designed Continuum of Care), the City of Orlando, Orange County, Osceola County, Seminole County, Kissimmee, Sanford and hundreds of local volunteers who participated in the Veterans Surge.

The Veterans Surge, led by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, occurred in late July and early August, and involved a massive outreach effort to locate homeless Veterans. As a result, Central Florida was able to create a Veterans registry, maintained by the Homeless Services Network, which has allowed local agencies to quickly determine the best path toward housing.

Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homeless said "We have seen the Housing First model work in cities like Houston and Salt Lake City; now we have seen it work here for our veterans who have been on the streets the longest. The solution to homelessness is housing and who more worthy of that housing than those that fought to defend our freedoms."

According to Martha Are, new Executive Director of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, "This is magnificent, because once we do this with veterans, we know now that we can do it for everyone over time. We now also have a coordinated system that can help find housing for chronically homeless veterans in the future; meaning no veteran will spend the rest of their lives on our streets again."

"This accomplishment speaks volumes about our community's compassion and when we work collectively together on things, from our Community Venues to SunRail, we achieve what we set out to do and that also means lifting up the least among us, our veterans," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "This was something big we set out to do together and gives us great momentum as we continue to work towards ending chronic homelessness."

"Our veterans – who have defended democracy and our American way of life – are deeply deserving of our support," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “We have taken a stand for our veterans, and that has inspired others to help. Our focus has been clear: to make homelessness, brief, rare and a one-time occurrence. Through collaborative efforts, we’ve created a system that other communities can put into place to identify and house chronically homeless Veterans. And although this is a great day for Central Florida, important work still remains. In 2016, we intend to bring the same laser focus to creating a system that will effectively house homeless Veterans with families."

In a continuation of the region’s collective work to locate and house Veterans, 2016 efforts will expand to focus heavily on housing homeless veteran families, including the availability and use of SSVF benefits, as well as the continued identification of newly-located chronically homeless Veterans.

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About Central Florida Commission on Homelessness: The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness was established as a nonprofit organization committed to eradicating homelessness in Central Florida. Through research, strategic policy development, collaborative leadership engagement, and high-impact grassroots campaigns, the Commission has made significant headway in informing our community about the issues facing the homeless, and inspiring them to take action. On a concrete level, the Commission coordinates nonprofits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic initiatives, private sector businesses, and other charitable and community organizations to impact homelessness in the Orange, Osceola, and Seminole county area. Under the leadership of Andrae Bailey, the Commission serves as a hub of information and initiatives, directing resources and energy to the appropriate local pathways.

About the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida (HSN): Established in 1993, HSN serves as the lead agency for Continuum of Care of homeless services in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, including the Cities of Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford. The nonprofit administers more than 32 grants through sub-recipient agencies, which prove services to homes in our continuum region. Programming funding provides transitional and permanent housing, supportive services and ongoing case management. For more information, visit www.hsncfl.org.

About Orange County Government: Orange County Government strives to serve its citizens and guests with integrity, honesty, fairness and professionalism. Located in Central Florida, Orange County includes 13 municipalities and is home to world famous theme parks, the nation’s second largest convention center, and a thriving life science research park. Seven elected members make up the Board of County Commissioners including the Mayor who is elected countywide. For more information please visit www.OCFL.net or go to the Orange County facebook and twitter pages.