At their Monday meeting, Osceola County commissioners helped clear the way to help the Community Hope Center tackle the area’s homelessness problem and stem the tide of families trying to live in motels along the U.S. Highway 192 corridor.

The Commission approved a zoning change to allow the CHC to begin work on building Hope Village, which Executive Director Mary Downey hopes will become “a community” of multi-family housing.

“We feel the strongest way to prevent homelessness and poverty is to build a support system,” Downey said.

The 5.63 acre property on the south side of Old Vineland Road just east of U.S. 192 was gifted by the Florida United Methodist Conference last year. Downey said she and the CHC would seek state and federal grants and public-private partnerships to get it built, and to try to offer assistance for the typical move-in costs like first and last month’s rent and utility deposits.

“It costs a family an average of $1,067 a month to live in one of those hotels, so we want to have rents lower than that,” Downey said. “These are people who can afford their rent. The goal is to get people into units and their forever homes. Whatever it takes, like grants for deposits, we will explore those options. We want to build a strong community.”

Downey said the CHC has been looking at using that parcel to address homelessness since it received it. There is a small Methodist church on the site, built in the 1860s and still holds worship services on Sundays, Mondays and Thursday, Downey said.

“The church wanted to look at that site in a different way to expand that property that continues that goal of ending homelessness and restoring hope,” she said. “We’ve had past conversations with the board, in our partnership with the county we have always been as community-minded as possible.”

Considerations will be made for next-door Shingle Creek Cemetery.

“We have no problem partnering with our neighbors,” Downey said.