Florida Hospital pledging millions to help house the homeless
It was entirely appropriate, Lars Houmann noted, that he would be announcing a plan to fight homelessness on Veteran’s Day.
As Houmann, the CEO and president of Florida Hospital, gathered with city leaders outside the hospital’s emergency room on Tuesday, he noted that Florida Hospital was committing $6 million over three years to address homelessness in the region.
“We know on Veteran’s Day that there are many things we need to do better – for our veterans and for the rest of the community,” Houmann said. “We’re going to gather here today to change the course of lives, to bring veterans off the streets, to put families back in their own living rooms.”
This is a part of a plan that Mayor Buddy Dyer announced during his annual State of the City Address earlier this year, to house 300 of downtown Orlando’s chronically homeless individuals within three years. The city has committed $4 million to support what’s called a “Housing First” model, that provides housing along with support services.
“Today is Veteran’s Day, and I want to start by recognizing the men and women who fought for our freedoms,” Dyer said. “Sadly, today some of our veterans are living on the streets of downtown Orlando.”
The city of Houston, Dyer noted, faced a similar problem, and employed the Housing First model to reduce chronic homelessness. Dyer and other city leaders recently made a trip to Houston to learn more, and Dyer said he’s convinced that if the Texas city can make it work, so can Orlando.
“Homelessness is one of the most complex issues, one of the most complex challenges, we are facing,” Dyer said. “But together we can help chronically homeless individuals find a home.”
The collaborative approach includes not just the funding from the city and Florida Hospital. Orange County government will be budgeting more than $13.5 million for homeless housing, prevention and related family programs.
“Every year, we gather to honor our veterans,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said. “This year we gather together to do more than talk about homelessness, but to find a solution.”
She added, “We are committed to creating a better future.”
Jacobs also announced that Dick J. Batchelor, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and president of Dick Batchelor Management Group, would chair a new commission on helping homeless families.
“That issue is a bit more complex and will take more time to figure out,” Jacobs said.
Houmann said Florida Hospital decided to make this commitment because they fully understand the problems facing the homeless.
“Every day, the homeless enter our emergency room,” Houmann said. “We mend their cuts, bruises and infections.”
But the hospital ultimately releases these patients, he said, and they return to the streets.
“Invariably that creates a crisis,” Houmann said. “The street is not an easy place for those who have no home. We patch them up, and then send them back out into the environment that created the problem.”
And this entire community, he said, owes something more, particularly to veterans who are now living on the streets.
“No person who served this country should get wet when it rains at night or shiver because it’s cold on Christmas morning,” Houmann said. “The journey out of homelessness must being with a home.”