Last week, the Florida House passed an appropriations bill that removes state grants for local homeless coalitions.
A spokesperson for Florida’s Department of Children and Families said the coalitions, which provide services to the homeless, are relying primarily on federal grants — grants that the state sometimes matches. Losing any money “could be devastating” to the people relying on their services, a spokesperson for the department said today.
Funding only goes through the Department of Children and Families, while most of the work and services are carried out by the local coalitions.
Policies to address homelessness have also mostly been left up to local governments; state officials have said that municipalities are better equipped to deal with the issue. Last December, the National Center on Family Homelessness released a report that graded Florida poorly because it failed to have a “state 10-year plan that includes children and families.”
Gov. Rick Scott last year vetoed $12 million from the state’s general revenue fund that was earmarked for the National Veterans’ Homeless Support Group for “homeless housing assistance grants.”
Ellen L. Bassuk, the president and founder of The National Center on Family Homelessness, said in a statement in December that states should not be eliminating any help to the homeless even as their economies continue to struggle.
“In the face of this man-made disaster, there must be no further cuts in federal and state programs that help homeless children and families. Deeper cuts will only create more homelessness that will cost us more to fix in the long run,” Bassuk said. “We can take specific action now in areas of housing, child care, education, domestic violence, and employment and training to stabilize vulnerable families and prevent child homelessness.”
Some parts of the state are facing worse homelessness crises than others. Last month, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Central Florida officials warned that “the number of homeless students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties has ballooned 79 percent since January 2009.”
The state’s homelessness epidemic has even earned national attention. Last November, 60 Minutes took a hard look at a county in Florida that reported 1,100 homeless students in its K-12 schools. The program also reported that “of all the families without shelter in America, one third are in Florida.”