Homeless and Voiceless in the World Class City
As students across Central Florida returned to school this week, one statistic sank my heart instantly. 10,000. That’s the number of children in our community without a home. After school, many will return “home” to cars or extended stay motels with their families who continue to struggle without even a word of support from our local leaders.
Our homeless crisis is an emergency. As Dan Beckmann wrote on the Coalition for the Homeless blog, “It’s a third-world problem right here in our very own backyard.” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Dyer continue to sit silent as so many in our community struggle. Neither mayor had any real response to their own Commission on Homelessness recommending they “cease to exist” after five years of complete failure. In that time, the Commission did not offer one single concrete action for the community. Three months ago, I sent this open letter to both Mayors. I got one initial response from Mayor Jacobs’ staff that they would share it with her. Still waiting for a response.
It was more than one year ago now that I passed a resolution at the local Orange County Democratic Party to decriminalize food sharing and stop arresting those who feed the needy. This was actually happening in Orlando. Worse, the city ordinance still exists. If you do charity in a public park, the threat of arrest remains. Mayor Dyer continues to push his bully policy: if you are needy or homeless, you have no voice in our city and you are not welcome.
This way of thinking is a stark contrast to Matthew 25:35: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
It’s beyond time for action locally.
Orlando – is this the “world class city” Dyer is always talking about? Where’s the leadership? More importantly, where’s the heart?
Central Florida, the tourism capital of the world, and supposedly the happiest place on Earth, is better than this.
Here’s what I would do. From my 2012 run for Mayor of Orlando, a platform plank that is still needed and still available at www.mikecantone.com:
Help for the Homeless of Orlando
We can list the effects homelessness brings to the community, including: an illusion of disorder, fear of crime, increase calls for service from police, city response and issues of mental health and addiction. Government throws a lot of money and support at these things but unless we’re addressing the root causes and offering a complete solution, it will be of little use. As Mayor, Mike will:
§ Create more affordable housing as part of the solution instead of Dyer’s luxury Creative Village
§ Invest in more drug and mental health rehabilitation centers as part of our public safety plan(see Heroes on the Street plan)
§ Improve and strengthen our city’s education through the Orlando Promise plan
§ Set up business advisory council to address issues and solutions of homelessness on a regular basis
§ Host a Community Night Out town hall on homelessness in Orlando, involving the entire community in the solution
§ Develop a task force set to go out and survey homeless residents and try to place them in programs that will help – taking resources to those in need on the street and identifying those who are chronically homeless and most at-risk to help as a priority. These programs are forward-thinking and rely on direct action and building relationships, trust and community to solve a very important social issue.
Mike led on this issue during his time as a Board Member for the Orange County Democratic Party this year. Mike offered a resolution at the height of the arrests and pending lawsuits over feeding the homeless and needy in Orlando parks calling on Mayor Dyer and the City Commissioners to stop the arrests and repeal the ordinance.
With Mike as Mayor, no one will ever be arrested for feeding the hungry.