By Alexis Moff
What are we going to do about all of the homeless people in Orlando? People in the city of Orlando have been asking this since the Orlando Sentinel published “Homeless get the cold shoulder” in 1987, over 20 years ago. It seems as if something should have been done by now but we still see articles, such as “More than 1 million U.S. students are homeless” in The Sentinel about the shortage of public funding for homeless individuals. Rather than looking toward the government and relying on taxes to help the homeless, I propose that we look towards private foundations who are actively trying to combat homelessness and hunger through private funding and charitable donations.
Straight Street Orlando (SSO) is a non-profit organization started three years ago, for which I volunteer for. Their mission statement is “we strive to offer service wherever needed to the city and to use the word of God to inspire and invoke life-changes. We desire for our members and those we disciple to grow in faith and love and to share that same faith and love.” They operate a food share every Tuesday night from six until eight at night at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Orlando. The volunteers make food and distribute it to the people. It is located at 24 North Rosalind Avenue Orlando, FL, everyone is welcome to volunteer or to come out and eat. The church allows us to operate out of their parking lot for free. Also, Straight Street hosts a laundry day once a month where anyone can bring their clothes to a laundry mat downtown and get them washed for free. Both of these events are funded through private donations from volunteers.
One major function of this organization is not only the weekly services they provide but the emotional and spiritual support they give to the community. I feel like the emotional and spiritual support they give is more than a professional service they provide, it’s the motivation for why they do what they do. They are less concerned about providing physical nourishment that will only last one night, and more concerned about giving them long term support. SSO seeks to get the homeless off of the street. The SSO Restoration Program seeks to get a job and a place to stay for one homeless friend at a time for those that wish to participate.
Organizations like these seem to have more freedom with the type of support they can give the homeless population, because they are funded by the people within the organization and not solely through the government. The bureaucracy of the government does not allow it to be as effective as the private sector. For instance, food stamps will help feed individuals; however when someone applies they must have a place of residence in order to receive them. Although the rules do have a place in this system we are under, the fact that they do not apply to SSO allows us to help those in need who fall through the cracks in the system. This organization treats the homeless as our friends and not as if they are societal pariahs. I gain so much through working with SSO. I am able to connect with those in need on a personal level and help however I can. I am thankful for the opportunity and get back what I give tenfold when I hear an appreciative comment or loving glance from our homeless friends.