Orange County Commissioner Tackles Homelessness Head On
With homelessness becoming a bigger and more serious issue in Central Florida, Orange County District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson has been partnering with advocacy groups to help the most vulnerable individuals in the community to ensure they have the resources they need to succeed.
“Homelessness isn’t always the most obvious issue facing District 1, but Orange County’s housing crisis is widespread and, unfortunately, ever present,” said Commissioner Wilson. “The pandemic has exposed more so than ever that many people are homeless now for the first time, pushed off the edge of middle-income by rising rent.”
Whether the Salvation Army, Matthew’s Hope, B.I.G. S.I.S., One Winter Garden, SALT Outreach or Sheppard’s Hope, the Commissioner’s office has worked to determine which groups and organizations can use their help. That help can come in the form of securing grant money or simply helping stock pantries. The Commissioner also has a volunteer form on her website so residents can get involved.
“We encourage organizations to call our office for assistance,” said Lee Perry, Senior Aide to Commissioner Wilson. “When the Commissioner was first elected, we made introductions proactively to establish relationships. She actually drove me around the district to show me the extent of the issue, so I knew right away this was important to her.”
Scott Billue, founder and president of Matthew’s Hope in Winter Garden, understands the challenges associated with homelessness. He and his staff provide services to those in need, including helping with Social Security benefits, VA benefits, food stamps, healthcare and even transporting clients to Matthew’s Hope to get showers, haircuts, manicures and clean clothing.
“Commissioner Wilson got involved with us even before she got into politics,” he explained. “In all my time doing this, she is the one commissioner who has taken an interest in the homeless crisis and tried to find ways to actively work with us and other organizations to address it.”
Billue believes Commissioner Wilson cares deeply about the plight of the homeless and is open to talking about what has to be done differently in order to make progress. “She’s addressing homelessness not with a band aid, but with a tourniquet,” he asserted. “She’s reaching out to people in the trenches, and asking how we see things and what we think.”
For Commissioner Wilson, it is all about assisting community partners and working together to make positive changes. “We work with these organizations to bring necessary services to the region for transitional and permanent housing,” she explained. “These partners are integral in improving quality of life for all people in West Orange County, and we must take care of each other now more than ever.”
Go to Commissioner Wilson’s website for more information or to sign up to volunteer.