New report shows homeless population declining – Orlando Sentinel
An annual count of Central Florida’s homeless population found an ever-so-slight decrease compared to the same time a year ago, a new report shows. But given the region’s extreme lack of affordable housing, officials called the findings very good news.
“Just the fact that it didn’t go up, given how tight our housing market is — that’s a huge deal,” said Martha Are, executive director of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, which led the annual count. “A lot of communities had increases. San Antonio, Texas, went up 11 percent. Pasadena, Calif., went up 33 percent. New Bedford, Mass., went up over 12 percent. It was across the country.”
The report, officially released today, found 2,053 homeless people in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties — down from 2,074 in 2017, a 1 percent drop. The count included anyone staying in a homeless shelter as well as those sleeping in the woods, in their cars or on the streets.
It did not include the thousands of Central Florida families living in rent-by-the-week motel rooms or people “sofa-surfing” — staying temporarily with friends or family members until they wear out their welcome.
Metro Orlando — which includes Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties — ranked third nationally for its lack of housing for extremely low-income residents, according to a National Low Income Housing Coalition study released this spring. Few places in the country have enough rentals for residents with limited income, but Orlando’s shortage is twice as severe as the national average.
Shelley Lauten, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, said the findings would have been more impressive if the Orlando area’s housing picture more closely resembled the nation as a whole. “The fact that it’s not getting