• Empty Osceola County church could soon be used to serve the homeless

    By: Nancy Alvarez , WFTV Web Staff


    OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - An empty church in Osceola County could soon be part of a solution to help serve the growing homeless population that currently stays in motel rooms along U.S. Route 192 in Kissimmee.

    “It’s not just what’s here. It’s also envisioning what it could be in the future,” said the Rev. Mary Downey, with Community Hope Center.

    Downey has spent five years leading the Community Hope Center in Kissimmee on U.S. Route 192 where thousands of homeless families have been helped with everything from housing to job placement. The Florida United Methodist Conference took notice and donated 2 acres and all the buildings on it so the Hope Center could expand.

    “It is not every day that a homeless outreach program is gifted this much property and square footage,” Downey told Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez.

    The gift comes at a time when talks on how to tackle the homelessness crisis in Osceola County are gaining momentum. One recent proposal called for a network of churches to work on an on-call basis to meet the needs.

    Osceola County commissioners just agreed to take part in a new study to explore creating what's called a Crisis Care Center.

    Downey is still working on the vision for the property, and there's no word on if it will include an emergency shelter -- a component missing in Osceola County.

    However it is an effort to bring relief to a county where more than 3,000 schoolchildren are registered as homeless.

    “These are our neighbors. People who are next to us at the grocery store, who go to school with our children, who we worship with on Sunday. It is our job to stand with them,” Downey said. 

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