Christian Service Center in Parramore to become comprehensive Day Center for homeless
The Orlando City Council agreed Monday to spend $6.1 million to transform the nonprofit Christian Service Center in Parramore into a comprehensive Day Center for the homeless.
The funding is a combination of federal COVID-19 relief -- through the Accelerate Orlando program -- and downtown Community Redevelopment Agency funds.
The upgrades are part of a broader plan to reduce the number of unsheltered people on the streets by 50 percent in three years and ensure no children must sleep on the streets.
The Christian Service Center has been around since 1971 and at the Parramore location since 1984. With the renovations and new operational funding, it hopes to serve 350 people a day with help ranging from meals and mental health care to housing assistance and become a "front door" to services.
Eric Gray, the center's executive director, said he wanted to thank city staff for their work on homelessness "because the city of Orlando is actually taking quite a bit of effort on this particular issue across multiple different dimensions in ways that the other 26 municipalities in Central Florida simply are not, not yet.
"And I think that among the other things that are really important about what we're doing today is that we're setting the tone for what I think is a leadership step for other communities around this area to follow."
Mayor Buddy Dyer said the Day Center will be "a clarion call" to other cities and counties.
"This is a historic day," Dyer said after the council vote. "You know, I've been mayor now 21 years in the city of Orlando. And since the first day I became mayor, we've been talking about this specific issue. So I don't want to let it go unnoticed that this happens every 21 years or so."
Some in Parramore, like Shiloh Baptist Church Pastor Derrick Williams, have concerns. He supports those homeless services.
"However," he added, "consideration must be given to the residents and stakeholders who will be impacted by the natural increase of the flow of the homeless population in our area."
Williams said the city should immediately fund shelters so they don't spend their nights on the sidewalk and private property of Parramore.