Agencies teaming up to help homeless families

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CENTRAL FLORIDA,None - Two state agencies are teaming up with three Central Florida school districts to combat homelessness.

WFTV has learned that the Florida Department of Children and Families is using a new database to target families in shelters and hotels, their latest effort to tackle problems by heading out on the streets.

Jason Velazquez lives in the Heritage Hotel with his wife and his two daughters, Felicity and Serenity.

"I really did wish we had our own place," said Velazquez.

Velazquez and his wife are unemployed. They are among the 4,000 families in Orange County who cannot afford homes.

That number so big that the folks at DCF are looking at creative ways to help.

DCF asked the Orange, Osceola, and Seminole county school districts for lists of families who are living in shelters or hotels. The agency is comparing those on the lists to the people with open public assistance cases. 

The results were a staggering 1,500 families.

"The choice between getting online and finding a computer where you can update an application or finding your next meal is really not a choice," said DCF spokesperson Carrie Hoeppner.

DCF, Second Harvest Food Bank and Work Force Central Florida are going out to shelters or hotels where they help people sign up for food stamps, apply for jobs or any other programs that people do not know they're eligible for.

"That is a very good thing. That is very nice of them. They don't have to do that," said Velazquez.

DCF has around 50 families at the Heritage Hotel it has offered to help. At least half of those families are accepting help.

Fortunately, Velazquez's wife had a job interview Tuesday, so he's hoping the extra help from DCF and its partners will buy his family some time.

"If I get the food stamps it will definitely be looking up," said Velzquez.

The outreach program will last about six months. The organizations will rotate from county to county targeting shelters and hotels.