In Positively Osceola News Today, our daily digital news issue, we feature organizations and leaders in the community that are focused on solutions to challenges in the Osceola County community. In this issue, we are featuring Reverend Mary Downey and sharing a message she recently shared with the community.

As our kids head back to school this month, I’m thinking about all of the children in our schools who don’t have a safe place to call home. We rely on our school districts to provide us with data on how many students are experiencing forms of homelessness. They base those numbers on domicile forms that families complete. As students age into middle and high school, many decide not to bring those domicile forms home.

But while we don’t have an exact count, we know that thousands of students in Central Florida will leave our schools at the end of the day to spend the night in hotel rooms, vehicles, and other places that are unfit for habitation. Florida is experiencing a full-scale housing crisis, and that crisis affects our kids as well.

One piece of the housing puzzle is school impact fees. Fees on new development are essential in order to provide quality education for students. Those same fees also contribute to the rising costs of housing. When we raise impact fees, housing prices go up; when we lower fees, we shortchange our students and teachers. There are no simple answers in this conversation, as there are no simple fixes to the issues surrounding student homelessness. However, there is one thing we can all do as we work to solve these issues: we can decide what we believe. I’d like to invite everyone to share this belief that we hold at Hope Partnership: everyone in our community — including every child and teenager – deserves a safe place to call home. If we can all begin from that place, we can make progress toward better outcomes for our kids.

Reverend Mary Lee Downey

CEO, Hope Partnership Inc.

Hope Partnership aims to provide a holistic continuum of care in order to end homelessness and poverty in Central Florida. They do this by connecting service providers, businesses, investors and clients with evidence based solutions and trauma-informed care practices in order to strengthen communities, empower neighbors, and build hope.

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