ORLANDO, Fla. — An already strained shelter system is having to quickly pivot after a fire displaced 237 people who were staying at the Coalition for the Homeless men’s shelter on West Central Boulevard.
The fire broke out around 3 p.m. on Wednesday and is under investigation, but not believed to be suspicious.
In the hours after the fire broke out, community organizations including the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and Shiloh Baptist Church of Orlando stepped up, so those displaced wouldn’t end up on the streets.
The Orlando Union Rescue Mission dug up mattresses and pillows, and utilized their chapel area to provide shelter to over 80 men displaced.
“We can do that in order to solve this program and provide the immediate need for these folks,” said Orlando Union Rescue Mission CEO, Fred Clayton.
The Coalition for the Homeless said their men’s shelter is currently unlivable and they expect repairs to take at least 10 days. Coalition for the Homeless CEO Allison Krall, promised all those displaced will have a roof over their head in the meantime.
“The community has come together in ways that are just unbelievable,” said Krall.
While a potential nightmare scenario has been avoided, the system itself is still looking towards a long-term fix.
Across the region, there are about 900 shelter beds, but just in the last month the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida said 1800 people were looking for help across the system and many were newly homeless.
“This unfortunate event just highlights again the overall shortage of shelter bed capacity that we have in this community,” said Martha Are, Executive Director of the Homeless Service Network of Central Florida.
Some homeless advocates are calling on local elected leaders to make expanding shelter capacity a priority.
The City of Orlando points out that most of the 900 shelter beds are located within city-limits and said a regional approach is needed. A city of Orlando Spokesperson also noted the city is actively pursuing the creation of a low demand shelter.
According to Mayor Dyer’s Senior Advisor on Homelessness and Social Services, the city of Apopka and Osceola county are also actively working to improve shelter capacity.
Channel 9 is still working to learn how other local leaders in Orange County and neighboring cities are addressing shelter capacity issues.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for the Homeless is asking for items like pillows, blankets, jackets, socks and other warm clothing for the men recently .
If you would like to donate, CLICK HERE.
Supplies and food can be delivered to the gate at the coalition, 18 North Terry Ave. in Orlando during normal business hours.
The Orlando Union Rescue Mission said they are also in need of blankets and twin-bed sheets. Donations can be taken directly to their facility located at 3300 West Colonial Drive in Orlando.
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