OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Imagine a family living out of their car or in a tent in an empty lot. That's just what homeless advocates say is happening minutes away from Disney World in Osceola County.
And as Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez found, the county doesn't have a homeless shelter for the families to turn to.
Families are living outside hotels on US-192, Alvarez found, including one with a 1-month-old son.
All of the family's belongings are stuffed into a double stroller and they have nowhere to live, no refrigerator and no milk for the baby.
The family has been staying in hotels since they were evicted from their home in October, but money for the weekly rentals ran out.
"We called every number we could
find. We did everything we could do," they said.
A local church sent the family to the Community Hope Center where director Mary Downey scrambled to pay for one more week of rent for them.
But at a center where homeless families can get help with everything from food to job placement, there's one thing Downey can't do.
"If someone comes to me today and says, 'I don't have anywhere to go tonight,' I have nowhere to send them," she said.
That's because there isn't a single emergency shelter in Osceola County.
Right now, there are about 3,000 homeless children in Osceola County and most of them live in cramped hotel rooms, officials said, but homeless advocates say the bigger problem is that when the families are evicted from the hotels, there's nowhere else to go but the street.
Channel 9 uncovered a report issued by the Homeless Services Network in 2011 that lists a shelter as a "critical need." But two years later, nothing has been opened.
Downey said it's not just dangerous, but it's also slowing down her efforts.
"It could give us a couple weeks of stability when it comes to housing to focus on the other areas, push them through and get them self-sustaining in the community," said Downey.
Channel 9 tried to find out why the county never followed the recommendation to build a shelter but Alvarez never got a clear explanation.
A county spokesperson did send a lengthy email about how the county is committed to its homeless population.