Thursday, November 30, 2006

EDITORIAL Orlando Sentinel November 30, 2006
Help the homeless
Our position: Communities across Central Florida need to work together on solutions.

Let's be frank: The challenge of finding solutions to the homeless quandary is overwhelming.

There is no "silver bullet," as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has said. But without a clear directive, all those enthusiastic plans about the revitalization of downtown Orlando will crumble.

The framework of solutions begins with the ability to address homelessness as a community, and by establishing coordination among various governments, agencies and church groups within Central Florida. This is not simply an "Orlando problem."

Local advocates estimate that within Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, there are about 7,500 homeless people. Most of the emergency and transitional beds are in Orlando, numbering about 2,200. But in Osceola alone, estimates range between 1,200 and 1,500 people without homes. Most other people without homes are scattered throughout the region, living temporarily in motels, with friends, in cars, or in the woods.

It's an issue that extends well beyond the concentration of indigent men in the downtown area and the hub around Lake Eola, where a dispute continues among city officials and advocates over group feedings. It would better serve our community if both sides could get past that pettiness and look for ways to address root causes -- domestic violence, mental illness, a lack of family structure and financial distress, among others.

Within the framework of a regional approach, a logical step would be the appointment of a point person to establish goals. That person should be independent of all government entities, avoiding conflict-of-interest issues, but should be able to coordinate efforts among various social-service agencies and church groups to avoid duplication of efforts and find a more effective means of reaching out to the homeless.

The buy in may not be an easy sell for neighboring communities and counties. But to echo the sentiments of Orlando City Commissioner Robert Stuart, each jurisdiction must understand the impact of homelessness on its community -- on health care, public safety, schools, the demand for housing, among other issues.

There have been many well-intentioned efforts by officials to curb homelessness, but not much in the way of substantive action over the years.

This agenda belongs on the laps of many folks. It's far beyond the scope of what Mr. Dyer and city officials can do or have done.

It is much easier to embrace the vision of a downtown renaissance and think of the possibilities. But if this community does not wrap its arms around the homeless and find some solutions, all of Central Florida will suffer beyond the empty seats one may find at a new arena and performing-arts center.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?