Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is getting series about fighting homelessness in Orlando. At least he seems to be.
Dyer wants to partially adopt a program that is gaining traction across the nation where cities are building housing complexes specifically for the homeless.
Utah was able to reduce homelessness by 74 percent by enacting a program called “Housing First.” They are on track, according to one report, to completely eradicate homelessness by 2015. That seems ambitious considering the program just started in 2000.
Under former Governor Jon Huntsman, Utah started by giving just 17 homeless individuals free housing and full-time caseworkers. That number grew to 2,000, and once the program had time to live, the numbers started to plummet.
Those who were given apartments were given a full opportunity to become self-sufficient, and if they failed, they were not forced to leave their apartments.
According to news report via WFTV.com, the program may only provide housing and not the type of incentives offered to those in Utah. There may be no dedicated social worker or potential to remain in housing if they relapse on an addiction.
Even so, Orlando needs to find a new approach for homelessness. According to Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel, a homeless person costs Orlando about $31,000 per year. If the Utah style program were adopted here, that cost would dive by $20,000.
Last year, Orange County saw a 29 percent increase in homelessness and a 50 percent increase since 2008. Couple that with the annual cost to keep the status quo and, again, Orlando needs to take drastic measures to try and fix the problem.
In an effort to bring attention to the plight of the homeless in Orlando, Thomas Rebman, a middle-school teacher at Lockhart Middle, will live on the streets for 30 days. To post updates about his experience, and to raise money, Rebman created a Facebook page titled “Homeless and Hungry.” According to the Sentinel’s website, any dollars collected will be split between Orange County Schools, Coalition for the Homeless, and Second Harvest Food Bank.
How far Dyer’s approach may extend will be interesting to watch. Housing the homeless for free seems like a fairly progressive idea.
Then there are the politics of the situation. Dyer may run for re-election in 2016, and if he *fixes the homeless situation, continues his crusade against the ban of gay marriage in Florida, and does something to alter the city’s financial situation, he’ll likely coast to another term.
In the interim, let’s hope that the city is able to aggressively address the problem of homelessness. Its good for the economy, tax payers, and morally, it’s the right thing to do.
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