This Central Florida group is feeding new opportunities for those in need
Just behind Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando, where the Orlando City Soccer Club calls home, is a building where a different kind of winning goes on. The Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida provides food, shelter and medical assistance to hundreds of people every day.
The Coalition serves up to 616 meals a day, said Trinette Nation, director of development at the Coalition.
“Anyone out in the community can also come in and they will receive a hot meal,” Nation said.
This all started in 1987 as a small operation organized by a group of churches in the community. At first, they had limited space, capacities, and connections to serve the community but managed to deliver at least one meal daily.
“We started off as an emergency drop-in shelter,’’ Nation said. “It was an open pavilion and we provided a meal at the end of the evening.”
Now, the Coalition has a campus on Terry Avenue consisting of three dorm buildings, a lunchroom, a daycare, a garden, and a lounge room where kids can play and learn. With the help of volunteers, the Coalition serves three meals each day to every resident and also feeds those in the community that have food insecurities. This service and the professionals who work in the Coalition help give many people an opportunity for a fresh start.
A fresh opportunity
One example is Landy De Los Santos, a single father who has been living at the Coalition for five months. Before that, he was living with his girlfriend in Kissimmee. But when the couple split up, he had to seek shelter elsewhere. Landy and his daughter have resided at the Coalition campus and are taking advantage of the many opportunities it provides including the meal services.
“Coming through the doors here we didn't have anything, and they gave us a good welcome, got her brand-new clothes, shoes, diapers, and stuff that I didn't have and wasn't able to provide in this situation,’’ Landy said.
He added it’s unfortunate that he finds himself in this situation, but that won’t keep him from working hard for his daughter.
“I came in, didn’t have a job, nothing much to provide for me and her, however, the daycare helped me as soon as I entered the door and that gave me leverage to go ahead and find a job,” Landy said.
Currently, Landy has a good paying job, which is possible because his daughter is taken care of and fed in the Coalition’s free daycare. With this resource, he can feel more confident and determined to go out and improve his life for him and his daughter.
“The first step is accepting [that] you need the help and reaching out for the help and keeping in mind that your current situation is never your last destination.” Landy’s goals are to keep working hard every day in hopes of him getting a proper living space alongside his daughter and providing her with the life that he couldn’t get.
Like Landy, there are many stories of people who struggle daily on the streets of Orlando. Trinette said that “life happens to every single one of us and it takes a community coming together so we can reduce individuals and families suffering from homelessness.”
The Coalition has its doors open for anyone who desires to donate or volunteer, and for those who feel they need a fresh start.