My Day on the Streets with Joel: Part 3

Blanca telling us her story

The last few weeks I have been blogging about the day I got to spend with Joel Miller, an Outreach Specialist with the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. Joel is on a mission to get as many local homeless residents into permanent housing as possible.

Meeting Blanca 
There was one person that Joel insisted that I meet that day, and I want you to know her, as well. Her name is Blanca. We met Blanca where she sleeps, along a fence in downtown Orlando by the railroad tracks. With her was Jesus, a man from Puerto Rico who is having problems getting proper I.D. It has been a long time since I have met a person so grateful and so giving as her.  She was more than happy to share her story after inviting me to sit next to her on the ground.

Like so many people, Blanca lost her home a year ago due to financial problems. She is now working at a temp agency trying to save enough money for a deposit on an apartment.

She also spends much of her time trying to help other homeless people. She even accompanies people who don’t speak English to the Social Security office so she can translate for them. By the way, the closest location is a two hour walk away.

Overcoming the I.D. Obstacle
Blanca is teaching Jesus how to speak English so he can find a job and get on with his life. One of the major obstacles he and others face is the lack of government-issued I.D. Without a permanent address or money to pay for a driver’s license or birth certificate, many homeless people are locked out of the employment market.

Without proper I.D. there is little that Joel can do to help them. I can tell that this problem is a frustrating one for Joel. Fortunately, the commission is partnering with another organization that is addressing the problem.

iDignity is an organization that helps disadvantaged people regain their self-sufficiency. It has events around Central Florida that provide help in obtaining I.D. cards, birth certificates, and Social Security cards.

10,000 Homeless in Central Florida
Blanca and Jesus are just two of the estimated 10,000 local residents who are living on the streets, staying in shelters or sleeping in cars every night. All too often, they are forgotten and invisible, which is why Joel and the commission keep pressing on.  “How we as a city reach out to help those who have the least shows a lot about our character as a city….for better or worse,” he said.  

If you are interested in more information on the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, click here. To learn more about United Way’s effort to alleviate homelessness, including our partnership with the commission, click here.

Oscar Lindquist
Full Sail Intern
United Way Marketing & Communications


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