Orange County Releases New Report on County’s Homelessness Investments and Programs
Orange County, FL – Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, along with Rulon Munns, chair of the Orange County Committee on Homelessness of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (CFCH), and in partnership with former executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Barbara Poppe, released the findings of a new report today. The report, titled “Orange County Investment in Programs to Prevent and End Homelessness,” was produced at the request of Mayor Jacobs and Committee Chair Munns. The report provides an independent review of the County’s contracts and programs that provide homeless prevention services, as well as homeless services and housing.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said, “Over the last several years, Orange County has greatly expanded its resources and programs to address homelessness in our community. Working with the Orange County Committee and Chair Rulon Munns, we requested that an evaluation be done by Barbara Poppe, the nation’s leading expert in this field. Specifically, we directed that Poppe bring a laser focus to how our current programs and partner programs stack up against the national ‘Housing First’ model. This report provides us with an analysis of how our programs are delivering outcomes, as compared to that model.” Continued Jacobs, “It’s important to note, that since most of our contracts were written well before the national model was adopted, we fully expected to see gaps. Our community has shown time and again that working together we are able to solve deeply complex problems. Not only will this report serve as a strong template for other local communities, I’m confident that with our outstanding partners — from social service agencies to faith-based groups — we will make history in housing our homeless children and families. The report will help us evaluate the impact of our regional efforts, and gives us a perfect jumping off point for the next phase of our work.”
Orange County, which is the largest of the six jurisdictions participating in the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, invested more than $7.4 million into homeless services in FY2015-2016.
According to Rulon Munns, Chair, Orange County Committee of the CFCH, “The Orange County Committee of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness has worked hard to review the current practices of Orange County in addressing homelessness. In all, the Committee has been very impressed with the efforts and resources of the County toward homelessness. We are gratified to receive this independent report, which confirms that the County is indeed allocating very significant funds, personnel and other resources to address this compelling issue. In addition, we are pleased to learn of the findings and recommendations, as well as the excellent suggestions and strategies recommended by Ms. Poppe.”
The report offers new recommendations about how to better align resources and programs to provide stronger services outcomes for individuals who are homeless. The new report complements previous studies by Poppe, which focused on different aspects of homelessness locally and statewide, including the 2015 reports, “Current State of Family Homelessness in Central Florida” and “The Path Forward: Rethinking Solutions to Homelessness in Florida,” both of which provided insightful feedback and analysis to aid community leaders in impacting homelessness. The findings of the current report propose next steps in a series of actions for Orange County as work continues to align local efforts with regional and national housing first approaches to ensure that an episode of homelessness is a brief, one-time experience for a family or individual.
To briefly summarize, the report examined 23 homeless programs funded through Orange County, and acknowledges several key strengths within Orange County’s existing structure, including:
- Total financial investment (dedicated existing and new funds to chronically homeless individuals and homeless families)
- The alignment of cross-division programs through one office
- Demonstrated strong commitment to homeless services from the highest level of leadership
In addition, Poppe noted several key areas for improvement:
- Reevaluate program criteria to ensure services are targeting “literal” homeless or unsheltered populations and use a housing first approach.
- Ensure all providers contribute to one database, Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), with the exception of domestic violence providers who could offer an alternative reporting structure.
- Identify key housing outcomes to be reviewed by County-level personnel on a recurring basis.
- Develop standardized reporting metrics for programs so that key comparable data can be captured.
In reaction to the report findings, Andrae Bailey, President and CEO, CFCH, added, “I’m deeply supportive of Mayor Jacobs’ efforts and of our Orange County Committee to obtain an expert evaluation of programs that the County has earmarked for homeless prevention, services and housing. Taking an objective look at how these programs specifically achieve outcomes as compared to national best practices for the Housing First model is vital. The findings and recommendations help set the stage for our next steps.”
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About Orange County Government: Orange County Government strives to serve its citizens and guests with integrity, honesty, fairness and professionalism. Located in Central Florida, Orange County includes 13 municipalities and is home to world famous theme parks, the nation’s second largest convention center, and a thriving life science research park. Seven elected members make up the Board of County Commissioners including the Mayor who is elected countywide. For more information please visit www.OCFL.net or go to the Orange County facebook and twitter pages.