UCF forum tackles issues of homelessness

Destiny Raynor is only 15, but she can already tell you what’s wrong with the would-be safety net of homeless services in Central Florida.

Last year, after her parents’ businesses failed and the family of six ended up living in a home with no electricity or running water, they looked at homeless shelters in Seminole County — only to find that the family would have to split up.

“Of course, they would separate my dad and my little brother [from the rest of the family]. He’s only 13,” Destiny told an audience of 200 at a UCF community forum on homelessness Tuesday. They spent four months in a hotel. The stress, Destiny said, was unimaginable.

The forum, hosted by the Orlando Sentinel and UCF, identified the lack of shelter space for families as one of the biggest needs of the region. But there were many others — including the need for widespread cooperation among government, nonprofits, churches and individuals, and the need for more businesses to join the effort.

“I’d like to see more corporations, more businesses join us because we’ve been able to address so many [homeless] children,” said Beth Davalos, coordinator of the Seminole County Public Schools Families in Transition program. “We’ve housed over 400 children this year that would otherwise be in their cars.”

The forum also featured Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), who became homeless after the death of his wife and subsequent cocaine addiction, Coalition for the Homeless President and CEO Brent Trotter and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Read more about the event in this Orlando Sentinel piece.


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