Osceola County commissioner works to get emergency homeless shelter

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Osceola County commissioners will hear from advocates Monday who say the time has come for the county to have an emergency homeless shelter.

An Osceola County commissioner has her eye on a homeless shelter in New Jersey that has proven to be successful in the community.

“I’m curious to find out what they are doing right,” said Commissioner Peggy Choudry.

According to the HUD, the Housing, Health and Human Services Center in Hackensack, New Jersey is doing a lot right.

The federal agency recently announced Bergen County is the first community in the nation to end long-term homelessness among people with disabilities and other special needs.

The work is done in an $11 million facility paid for by grants and taxes. It includes a 90-bed temporary shelter.

Emergency services are available around the clock, something Choudry said is missing from how Osceola County is tackling its problem with homelessness.

“There is not the emergency stay where someone says, ‘OK, I’m being picked up tomorrow by family,’ or, ‘Tomorrow is when I’m getting my paycheck and I need one night for that emergency stay,’” said Choudry.

The center offers a variety of services beyond a temporary stay, and about 1,100 people processed there have ended up in permanent housing.

In Osceola County, the answer for many homeless families has been motels lining U.S. Highway 192.

Before she was elected in November, Choudry used to own one.

She said she saw the problem first-hand and wants to see what she can learn from the New Jersey facility.

“I would like to bring back an idea that would work for our taxpayers, for our homeless people and families, to address these issues,” Choudry said.

She will tour the shelter in New Jersey with a group that will include Shelley Lauten, the CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness.

Choudry said she's also researching possible locations for a center somewhere in the county.

Nancy Alvarez

Nancy Alvarez, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team in May 2010 and am currently co-anchor of Eyewitness News This Morning alongside Jamie Holmes.