Nonprofit group works to collect data on Orlando homeless population
ORLANDO, Fla. - There are people we pass on the street or see waiting for us at a red light. Homelessness is not uncommon, and often it's a single paycheck separating the person from their former life.
One local non-profit worked throughout the month of March collecting their stories to figure out how to help.
"Not everyone who is homeless is on drugs or a criminal," said La'Triche Edwards.
Some are moms who have fallen on hard times.
"We hold it together," said Edwards slowly, "I call it urban camping, so it won't be so bad."
La'Triche Edwards and her 14-year-old son live in the tent compound in Parramore. They were evicted at the end of October.
"Living paycheck to paycheck. The rent increased and I couldn't afford it," said Edwards.
Her previous job as a call receptionist for a minute clinic relied on a consistent internet connection. There's none here, so she's been out of work. These are the stories the non-profit The Christian Service Center is working to collect through its EPIC Outreach Initiative.
"We've seen the tent situation increase in just the last few months. Trying to figure out why that's happening. Homeless people experience a wide range of issues - mental health, drug addiction, but it's also an affordable housing problem," said Bryan Hampton, Christian Service Center.
I joined Bryan Hampton and about a dozen volunteers who walked block to block in neighborhoods to survey homeless community members. They're working to find out their background story and to determine what resources are needed.
"This is a test project and we want to see based on outreach how many people we can get off the streets," said Hampton, "If this test project works then we can apply to other areas."
Since the beginning of March, 247 surveys were completed and 27 people are no longer homeless. The non-profit has helped move to extended stay hotels, reunite with loved ones, or help people getting into a shelter.
Based on the survey of the Parramore Heritage area, the data indicates:
- 36% of people surveyed don't have an ID, which is needed for a job, shelter, and housing.
- 48% are homeless for the first time
- 58% have a disabling medical condition
- 30% are over 55 years old, the average age is 45
Most surveyed reported being homeless for at least a year.
When we met Edwards she was headed to a job fair. She completed the survey. Now the work begins to help her....as she finds a way for her family.
"See if I could get anything. It doesn't matter - just to get a residual paycheck to get first month's rent," said Edwards.
The non-profit says it will also relay this information to the county for planning purposes.