Orlando's Housing-Healthcare Connection

A Joint Blog by Deb De Santis and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

When CSH and the City of Orlando began our partnership, Orlando had already realized that great cities not only engineer and sustain vibrant business districts; they also uplift the most vulnerable among us.

Working with regional partners such as Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, the community recognizes there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to address the many faces of homelessness. Through the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and the Homeless Services Network, local leaders are learning from the successes of Houston and Salt Lake City and taking meaningful steps to forge innovative approaches that produce results.

A little over 18 months ago, citing strong commitments from Orlando and Orange County, the Florida Hospital announced a $6 million pledge to address homelessness in Central Florida. The resources from Florida Hospital served as the kick-off investment for the Central Florida Foundation’s “Homeless Impact Fund,” a public and private investment-solutions vehicle to help those facing homelessness.

These kinds of collaborations to address homelessness are catching on, but Florida Hospital’s eagerness to become an invested partner with local communities, and in such a big way, is something we need to see more of across the country.

As Florida Hospital’s CEO said when announcing the donation, “We all have a moral obligation to take a stand to end chronic homelessness.” There is no doubt in our minds that the impact would be significant if other hospitals and local officials took their cue from Orlando and Florida Hospital and formed strong working relationships.

We know housing is a determinant of health and in many respects the best medicine for injecting the stability into the lives of vulnerable individuals, raising the likelihood they will stay on top of their medical, mental and behavioral health needs. Because successfully housed people are more stable and tend to use costly crisis care (emergency rooms, detox programs) less frequently than those facing homelessness, it is in the interest of hospitals and other healthcare providers to be at the table.

Orlando’s civic, business and healthcare leaders have committed to tackling chronic homelessness together, rallying around “housing first.” This approach houses people as quickly as possible and surrounds them with the case management and support services they need to stay housed.

Thanks in part to Florida Hospital’s generous investment, Orlando can access case managers and the essential services to keep individuals off the streets. Through these efforts, just in the core of Orlando, 70 people have been housed in the last year.

And the City continues to build on the momentum by matching the Florida Hospital gift with over $4 Million of its own resources to expand access to affordable housing, and also by creating a high-level position within the Mayor’s Office to harness the authority, expertise and resources necessary to enhance housing options and transform how services are delivered to vulnerable people.

There is always more to do, but we have seen an unprecedented level of support from the community, providers, advocates and civic-minded organizations such as Florida Hospital.

We cannot and will not rest until those who need a home have one.

That passion is as much a part of Orlando’s vision as attracting new businesses and showcasing amazing entertainment experiences. Because, when you get right down to it, building a world-class city also means creating the opportunities and culture to take care of everyone in it.

Deb De Santis is the President and CEO of CSH

John Hugh “Buddy” Dyer is the 32nd and current mayor of Orlando, Florida, first elected in 2003.

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