Last week the Orlando Sentinel reported on a conference hosted by business leaders, local government, and advocacy groups to raise awareness about homelessness in Osceola County — of which Disney World partially resides within. The group ‘summit’ included the results of a joint public-private funded report* on “The State of Homelessness in Osceola County.” According to the study the “number of homeless school-age children and parents rose by 54 percent to more than 5,000 in the past year alone.”
Businesses and government leaders have been particularly worried about the prolificacy of homelessness there because, like many urban areas in the past thirty years or so, one of the solutions (for families especially) in the absence of adequate services is to save up just enough money to stay in motels that rent by the week. Nationally the portion of homeless staying in motels is comparatively small, but according to the new report in Osceola that number 25 percent — five times the national average. Yet staying in those places are seen as somewhat of a dead-end solution, though, in that while the cost is just enough to afford it’s likewise too much to save for more permanent housing. This is especially true in Osceola (emphasis mine):
That leads directly to the next point of emphasis: what these families earn against the cost of Osceola County housing. One adult working full time at $9.07 per hour earns $1,556 monthly before taxes. According to the “affordability principle” – no more than 30 percent of a household’s income should go toward housing — the household should be paying $467 monthly to maintain stability.
But, the fair market rate for a one ($825) or two-bedroom ($983) rental leaves them “precariously housed” — paying more than half of their income for housing, which is not sustainable long-term.
So what makes this a particular problem in Osceola?
As Andrae Bailey, executive director of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, told the Sentinel on Thursday:
[...] the “shockingly high” number of homeless families in Osceola stem from a unique intersection of low-wage jobs, high mobility, cheap and plentiful motel rooms, a lack of homeless shelters and, some say, a lack of code enforcement that allows families to stay in motels for months — sometimes years — at a time.
When families miss those weekly payments motel owners are upset because they cannot be evicted without a court order — a costly endeavor when these establishments are home to some 800 homeless school-aged children. With all of this happening in an area that heavily relies on tourism (including the tax revenues from such), and ”in the shadow of” the carefully-curated magical image of Disney, it’s easy to see a broad coalition of community groups coming together to solve such a pressing issue. Read the rest of this entry