The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness was re-established as a non-profit organization in 2013, committed to eradicating homelessness in Central Florida. Through research, strategic policy development, collaborative leadership engagement, and high-impact grassroots campaigns, the Commission has made significant headway in informing and inspiring our community to act on the issues facing homeless Veterans, families, youth, and other homeless individuals.
On a fundamental level, the Commission coordinates non-profits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic initiatives, businesses, and other charitable and community organizations to positively impact homelessness in the Orange, Osceola, and Seminole tri-county region. Under the leadership of Shelley Lauten, the Commission serves as a hub for information and initiatives, directing resources and energy into the appropriate local pathways. Put simply, the Commission helps light the way and pioneer the path toward proven solutions.
In 2014, the Commission released a groundbreaking report entitled The Cost of Long-Term Homelessness in Central Florida, calculating the true expense for each chronically homeless individual in the community to be roughly $31,000 a year. In contrast, the research conducted by a top national homeless expert concludes that “providing the chronically homeless with permanent housing and case managers to supervise them would run about $10,000 per person per year” (Orlando Sentinel, 5-21-2014). These findings solidified the Commission’s goal of battling all types of homelessness (with a new emphasis on chronic homelessness) through the creation of permanent housing solutions that include healthcare and social services.
Also in 2014, the Commission executed what has become the most successful advocacy campaign in our community’s history. The nationally-recognized Rethink Homelessness campaign has drawn followers and supporters from throughout Central Florida and beyond, giving new visibility to the true plight of the homeless in Central Florida. Its relentless focus on community advocacy has helped it grow to reach a regular audience of more than 30,000 people on Facebook alone and spurred local governments to create meaningful change.
One video created by the campaign, “Cardboard Stories,” has spread the message of Rethink Homelessness around the world. Its origins were humble: Two Rethink Homelessness team members went out with handheld video cameras, a stack of spare cardboard pieces, and a set of markers. They offered homeless people a piece of cardboard and a marker, giving them a platform to tell part of their story to the community at large. The videotaped results went viral, garnering almost 5 million YouTube views and bringing the Commission’s objectives to an even wider audience.