ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando's mayor has some major news about how he wants to fight homelessness in the city. Rather than providing temporary shelter he wants to give chronically homeless people who are disabled free apartments.
The traditional method to deal with the chronically homeless is to get them in a shelter with a program, affording them the opportunity to get a job and later a home.
But advocates for the homeless who have launched a campaign to "rethink homelessness" said what works better is simply getting the homeless into homes.
According to city officials, each night the city of Orlando has around 900 people sleeping on the streets.
Lena Reed, 51, has lived on the streets for a long time and said programs and temporary shelter has not helped.
"I've been here 10 years," she said.
Reed said she can't get a job anymore because she suffers from mental disabilities and arthritis.
"I sleep on the cement. It's a struggle to get up every day," said Reed.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently committed to an aggressive new method to help Orlando's chronically homeless.
"We've made a commitment to house 300 chronically homeless individuals in the city of Orlando in the next three years," said Dyer.
The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness is spearheading the new approach that raises questions about accountability.
"What happens if someone gets one of these apartments and then goes back to drinking?" WFTV reporter Lori Brown asked
Andrae Bailey with the CFCH.
"It's not going to work for everyone. But the stats show on a national level 91 percent of people who get supportive housing are successful and stay in that housing after two years," said Bailey.
Bailey said the bottom line is it will get Orlando's most vulnerable off the streets, saving taxpayer's money on arrests and medical bills in the long run.
Reed, whose children don't know she's homeless, said having a home would change her life.
"They think mommy's living in Florida drinking margaritas on the beach. I don't want them to think I'm living on the street," said Reed.
The city of Houston reported cutting the number of people living on its streets nearly in half in only three years. They said a program providing permanent homes was part of the solution.
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