Love Thy Neighbor homeless event in west Orlando to provide relief
Bright blue tarps and colorful makeshift tents dressed a sidewalk in west Orlando on Thursday, where dozens of unhoused neighbors make their homes every day.
The small encampment sits across from the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, a low barrier residential shelter on 18 North Terry Avenue that offers temporary housing and emergency services to unhoused people.
That spot is where Community Organizer Keith Chapman said New West Orlando Foundation volunteers will gather Sunday at 1 p.m. to host the Love Thy Neighbor event, aiming to relieve the local unhoused population by offering free hygiene products, clothing, pizza, water, and haircuts.
NWOF is a nonprofit organization focused primarily on community involvement with youth, families, and disadvantaged sectors.
Chapman said it’s all about giving back and treating that sector of the neighborhood with the same dignity and respect as anyone else.
"To give them hope, just to give them another day,” Chapman said. “It’s saying you do matter; you know what I’m saying? This is your situation now, but this today isn't forever. Just keep fighting.”
According to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, poverty and homelessness numbers in Central Florida continue to grow. Amid the current Florida housing market crisis, more families and individuals have been forced out of their homes.
Chapman said, the economic prosperity that has come to the city is not being felt in certain parts of west Orlando. As the contradiction worsens, he said residents are being overlooked when they shouldn’t be and addressed only when it perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
“When people hear ‘west Orlando,’ and they kind of hear, ‘Oh, lock your doors,” like that dark cloud over us type of thing. Well, I'm like, that's not really the case everywhere,” Chapman said. “What about the girl who just graduated with her master's? Or what about somebody who just opened up a new restaurant, you know what I’m saying? There's a lot of good things that are happening on the west side, but it's not being publicized.”
While Chapman has been doing community work for over eight years, NOWF became an official nonprofit with the state just four years ago. He said the movement is part of a new wave coming to west Orlando. With this positive approach, he was inspired to name his organization.
“I'm like, you know what? It's a new generation. It's a new energy. It's a new vibe to the city. It’s New West Orlando,” he said.
The event will wrap up at 5 p.m. The best way to contact, offer help, or donate to the organization, Chapman said, is through their Instagram page. He said volunteers are always happy to connect and accept supplies or services for redistribution.
Lillian Hernández Caraballo covers the stories of housing and homelessness in the Central Florida region for WMFE. She's also a Report for America corps member.