Services are available across the state by the Florida Office on Homelessness as well as the Division of Housing and Community Development. The organizations partner with, and coordinates, programs with local non-profits, municipalities and faith based groups. Together they work to stop families from becoming homeless and assist those who already are.
The Office is involved in administering resources in the state. The goal is to ensure the availability of affordable homes and apartments for the most vulnerable. They also coordinate prevention activities in all counties. They rarely, if ever, provide direct assistance to residents. Instead most of the resources available are offered using referrals. Anyone in need of housing can be linked to a social service agency to apply to.
Vulnerable residents of the state often have the most difficultly in affording the rent and bills associated with leasing an apartment in Florida. The lack of housing, and increasing costs to buy or lease a home, is a major struggle for many vulnerable families. Immigrants, the disabled, and the increasing number of elderly in Florida are often priced out of the market. The Division of Housing and Community Development works to help people overcome these barriers.
There are several categories of programs to apply to at these offices. They include the following. Only some are financial in nature. Others help stabilize the family.
-Residents living on the streets can get referrals to sheltering services from the Florida Office on Homelessness.
-The office is involved in coordinating financial assistance programs for water bills, rent, utilities, and other housing needs.
-Transitional and permanent housing is also arranged as a solution.
-Florida Office on Homelessness will link clients to social services, conduct assessments, and provide other help.
-Section 811 housing is a HUD program that property owners can apply to, if they agree to develop affordable apartments for the disabled.
The Division of Housing and Community Development also partners with developers in the state. They can direct these future landlords to federal grant programs, which can be used in the development of residential units. Any aid is contingent on the properties being affordable to low income families.
First time homebuyers can contact the Florida Office on Homelessness. There are programs run by the Finance Authority that provide them with low cost and interest rate mortgages, one of them which is SHIP. It can sometimes make sense for say a single mom to buy a home rather than rent. As there are some programs (such as for veterans, teachers, etc.) that are tailored towards ownership.
Anyone that has a housing need can contact the local non-profits that partner with the Florida Office on Homelessness. There is assistance for immigrants, single moms or dads, the chronically homeless, and families living in poverty. Those groups are also some of the most vulnerable. As long as income and other requirements are met, the Office may assist.
Linkage is often given to many faith based agencies in Florida as they may offer solutions. Or they are a source of additional referrals. Some of the lead agencies to contact include the United Way, Lutheran Social Services, the Salvation Army, Jewish Family Services, or Catholic Charities. In addition to those charities, another place to try are Florida community action agencies.
The administration of these programs is now being done locally. That means any tenant or homeowner that has overdue mortgages, is in rent or utility arrears, or is about to have their water shut off needs to contact an agency in the local city or county. The state is no longer involved in providing solutions across the region. This is due to budget constraints as well as the additional efficiency gained by administering the programs locally.
Florida Office on Homelessness will ensure that any assistance is ongoing. This means that once someone is enrolled into a program with a local non-profit, there will be follow up given to maintain stability. This can last either weeks or months, and it depends on many factors.
Not only will the client learn about housing programs, but the staff from the Office on Homelessness (or one of the local faith based groups) will go over other entitlement programs. These often help people living in poverty, and benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, mental health care, and dozens of others.
The Office of Homelessness can be reached at 850-922-4691 for referrals. Or contact a local United Way helpline.
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