Today I found myself navigating the ‘Disney’ travel system (bus to Hollywood Studio and ferry to the Swan and Dolphin hotel) to attend the Network of Leadership Scholars conference on Homelessness and Helpfulness – What does leadership have to offer? To be honest I was intrigued and slightly disrupted by the title so I was found myself keen to find out what leadership scholars were doing in this.
I was invited to join a table of Americorp Vista Volunteers who work in the Central Florida homelessness social service system – they told me one third of America’s homeless children reside in the state of Florida – I was stunned and I opened my ears and heart to listen to two case studies about community based leaders trying with different levels of success to address the critical issue of homelessness in America.
One of the speakers who was open and frank in her presentation was Cathy Jackson Executive Director of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida here’s a link to an interview with her so you can experience her excellent analysis of the systemic problems faced by homeless people in this state of Florida http://cmfmedia.org/2010/05/homeless-in-seminole-county-pt1/
One of the ideas that she spoke strongly to is how homelessness is quite different in ‘destination locations’ like Orlando and she spoke of the hotels that how been squeezed out by the Disney empire and now become shelter for families that are finding themselves homeless. Families find themselves living in a motel room for over twelve months unable to piece together enough cash to satisfy bond and first/last months rent to get back into the private rental market.
So as you can imagine I was completely moved by the important work of people like Cathy and the vista Volunteers and absolutely heartened that leadership academics like Thomas Bryer at the Uni of Central Florida are working in partnership with these important issues.
Check out 60 Minutes focus on these folks living in hotels and the children living in poverty – the largest section of the population living in poverty since the Great Depression http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7358670n