Solving homelessness is about more than a meal

With all the renewed national press coverage Orlando has garnered about the events surrounding feeding the homeless at Lake Eola, we thought now was a good time to reiterate our position on the matter.

As we’ve said before, we understand the motivation of groups who wish to alleviate the suffering of the homeless in our community. That’s our mission 365 days a year.  We also agree with the belief that society needs to do much more to provide food and housing to all.  We work towards that daily as well.

However, we also appreciate the City of Orlando’s position that Lake Eola is a place for the entire community to be able to enjoy.  And we agree they are justified in enforcing the Feeding Ordinance, which was upheld in Court in April 2011.  If a group wants to hold a large public feeding, there are areas designated by the City with tables, benches, port-a-potties and security, such as Sylvia Lane.

The core of our belief, however, goes even deeper.  First, feeding homeless individuals at Lake Eola is a duplication of services.  Currently, there are a wide range of social service agencies in downtown Orlando which provide food, shelter, and most importantly – case management to help homeless men, women, and children.  In addition to nightly dinners at the Coalition and Salvation Army, the Christian Service Center provides lunch through its “Daily Bread” program.

Second, solving homelessness is about more than a warm meal and a place to sleep.  Homelessness is the symptom of a larger problem.  Individual case management is the key to helping men, women, and families become independent.

We believe that, especially lately, this feeding issue has become more about flouting the law and getting publicity.  Fostering collaboration would be a more productive way to deal with homelessness and hunger than making demands of the City.  Too, this issue and its publicity have cast the City of Orlando in a bad light.  The City has been a great partner to us at the Coalition.  They have provided ongoing financial support of our programs for homeless men, women and children, as well as capital funding.

Last year, the Coalition provided more than 302,000 nutritious meals and over 209,000 nights of safe shelter.  Meal service is open to anyone in the community in need of food, not just residents of the Coalition.  Meals are available 365 days a year.

Volunteer groups have been involved with committed meal service, in some cases for more than 10 years.  Our volunteer groups feel like they are making a difference in the life of a homeless individual or family.  Currently, over 200 groups per year donate their time and talent to our meal service program, more than 85 of them doing so on a regular basis.

For more information on how you can participate in the meal service program, visit www.centralfloridahomeless.org, or call (407) 872-5784.

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