'Unsheltered homelessness' spikes 105% in Central Florida: Report

A new report from the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida shows the number of people without a steady place to sleep has more than doubled over the past year.

The number of homeless people in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties has increased by more than 28% in the past year, but when you take into account the number of people experiencing "unsheltered homelessness," which means they are not staying in shelters and have nowhere to sleep, the number has increased by 105%, says Martha Are, CEO of Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.

"More people are on the streets, and that will continue to rise until we boldly, robustly, and assertively deal with our housing crisis," Are said.

These are the latest numbers from this year’s "Point In Time" count, or PIT count. It was carried out in central Florida on January 22, 2024. On that night, Are said 2,883 people were recorded as being homeless. About 1,600 stayed in shelters, but the rest were on the streets. 

The federally mandated PIT count is not an exact science; some claim the numbers are skewed. She said she recognizes the flaws but said it still gives them a general idea, and this year’s count found a new trend.


"One of the fastest growing groups of people experiencing homeless now are senior citizens, particularly women," Are said. "More than half of them are unsheltered, unable to get into shelters."

Are blames rising rents and stagnant incomes, combined with a shortage of affordable housing and emergency shelter beds.

"We’ve actually lost shelter beds," Are said. "We lost 372 beds in the last year."

In 2019, according to www.rentdata.org, the cost of a two-bedroom apartment was close to $1,200 a month. Five years later, in 2024, it’s over $1,800. When crunching the exact numbers, it is a 56% increase.

The Central Florida Foundation reports about 48% of people in the Orlando metro spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

"We’re sounding the alarm that at this point, we have to significantly increase our investment in housing and overnight sleeping accommodations, or perhaps next year we might see another increase," said Are.

According to Are, PIT counts are required by the government for any community receiving federal dollars for homeless programs and assistance.