They live in the shadow of Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle, but there’s nothing magical, nor is it a fairy tale for the thousands of kids who occupy the hotels of Central Florida along US Highway 192.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer speaks of a “world class city” but right in his and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ backyard lies the “let’s not talk about that” problem of the decade – the major poverty and unemployment that persist, alongside low wage jobs and neighborhood neglect. Perhaps this will be the legacy of mayors like Dyer and pretty soon Jacobs too.
Maybe the new gentrify-now project being hailed as the Creative Village will make it better for the children of today’s thousands of homeless families, in and around Orlando. Best estimates suggest that this project will be completed in 2032.
And let’s not forget, Orlando was ranked the nation’s third “meanest” city for the homeless, not so long ago.
According to huffingtonpost.com:
The U.S. Department of Education reports, at least 2,000 children live in the hotels of Central Florida, and that’s not counting the untold numbers who are too young to go to school, or who have dropped out, or who have otherwise escaped notice, as many undoubtedly have. Families make up the fast-growing segment of America’s homeless population. Thousands live in hotels. The Department of Education has identified 47,000 hotel kids in schools around the country, and says that the number of homeless kids in public schools has increased by 38 percent since 2007. In Central Florida, it isn’t uncommon to hear of 19 or 20 hotel kids in a class of 22 at the local schools.
Whatever their reasons for coming to the hotel, the families were all struggling in some way not only to pay the rent from week to week but also to find some stability amid the confusion and disorder. For homeless families the lack of stability is arguably the biggest obstacle on the path to a better life. A homeless child might move three or four times in a year, and studies show that every time he changes schools he falls behind by about six months. Many other studies suggest that children who can generally depend on a certain level of predictability in their lives perform much better in school than their counterparts, and go on to hold down higher-paying jobs.