Sentinel: Central Florida child homelessness has increased 79 percent since 2009
The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that Central Florida officials are warning “the number of homeless students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties has ballooned 79 percent since January 2009.”
Officials project that, by summer, more than 10,000 school-age children across the three counties will have been homeless at some point during the year, many of them for months on end.
The news came Friday amid a “call to action” by the Florida Department of Children and Families, which hopes to enlist Central Florida businesses, charities, churches and individuals to help homeless children and their parents.
According to a study released by The National Center on Family Homelessness last month, Florida has one of the worst rates of child homelessness in the country.
In a ranking of one (best) to 50 (worst), Florida ranks 42nd in the nation. About 84,000 children in Florida were homeless in 2010, according to a report (.pdf) from the group.
The study, “America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010″ (.pdf), also found that “more than 1.6 million children or one in 45 are homeless annually in America [which] represents an increase of 38 percent during the years impacted by the economic recession (2007 to 2010).” The study also pointed out that the state did not have a “state 10-year plan that includes children and families,” for combating homelessness in the state.
The Sentinel reported that the state Department of Children and Families is trying a number of small things to help. According to the Sentinel, officials said they would “ease family homelessness without costing more tax dollars,” which includes a Facebook campaign.
Last year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $12 million from the state’s general revenue fund to the National Veterans’ Homeless Support Group for “homeless housing assistance grants.” This item was one of the many public assistance programs Scott axed.
According to the Sentinel, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins told the paper, “We’ll need all your help. To some degree, we’ll be making it up as we go along.”
The issue of child homelessness in the state was highlighted last November when 60 Minutes shed light on the issue and took a hard look at a county in Florida that reported 1,100 homeless students in its K-12 schools.
Responding to the broadcast, state legislators announced a bipartisan effort to combat Florida’s homelessness crisis. State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, announced that they “filed legislation for the 2012 Florida legislative session that seeks to raise awareness and funding to help combat homelessness.”