Homeless Issue Is Still Present In Seminole County | Seminole , Florida | Seminole Chronicle
Since losing her job and her home last year, Olasande and her five children have been living in a motel.
“I never thought that I would be in this situation,” said the 40-year-old Central Florida resident.
Olasande is not alone, explained Beth Davalos, coordinator for Seminole County’s Families in Transition. Each day, an average of 10 children are referred to the program, which helps serve the needs of homeless children in the area.
FIT was established nine years ago as part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, to remove barriers so that children who lack a permanent residence can continue their education without interruption.
“This is a difficult, transitional time for these children,” Davalos said. “When basic needs are not being met, children lag behind.”
FIT works with school staff to identify and help these families. By providing access to continued education, free breakfast and lunch at school, gas cards, transportation, food, clothing and essential hygiene items, the program aids families trying to get back on their feet.
And there are many in need. FIT is currently working with more than 750 families and 1,640 children in Seminole County.
“The homeless population figures are deceiving,” Davalos said. “Only 30 percent of homeless people are in shelters. Seventy percent are what we call ‘couch-surfing,’ staying in a temporary place.”
Due to high unemployment and home foreclosures, the homeless population in Central Florida has surged, prompting a special report, “Hard Times Generation,” which aired last spring on the CBS News show 60 Minutes.
“The recognition that there is a sizeable group of homeless families and children is a useful and poignant illustration of how bad our economy has gotten, in Central Florida and all over the country,” said Jim Wright, professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida.