Orlando City Commissioner calls for task force to study homelessness in the Parramore community

One Orlando City Council member says there is a better use for the millions of dollars that could go towards fixing up a facility used to provide services to the homeless.


Eyewitness news first reported tuesday the city is considering spending $ 5.1 million to renovate the Christian Service Center which says it needs the improvements to continue its work.

But District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill says that won’t fix the problem for the Parramore neighborhood. She says that residents in her district want to see a different solution.

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“They’re telling me, Commissioner… we know that there’s something that needs to be done, but it’s causing a negative impact in our front yard,” said Hill.

Sonjae Arthur has been a Parramore business owner for close to a decade. She received a Minority Entrepreneur Business assistance grant from the city to build out Sonjae’s Hair and Beauty Bar 8 years ago.

It means she endured the pandemic and the staffing challenges that followed, but in the last few months she says there’s been a different issue..

“One of my customers got spat on because she refused to give money and she doesn’t come here anymore because of that,” said Arthur.

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Arthur says her business has suffered as tent encampments have gone up in Parramore.

Next door to Arthur, Jennifer Yon took over ownership of the restaurant  Dexter’s on Church this July.

She says she’s had mostly pleasant experiences with the homeless in the area, but has seen an impact.

“Either were impacted by short staff or were impacted by people just not wanting to come to this area because of fear of the homeless,” said Yon.

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The city says it plans to use $58 million in federal funds to address housing and homelessness.

Eyewitness news told you Tuesday, $5.1 million of that could go to renovate the Christian Service Center which  provides services to homeless.

You can read more about the project and why the Center says it desperately needs the funding here. 

But Hill says renovating the building is not the solution to getting people off the streets of Parramore.

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She says the constituents she represents also oppose the project.

“They’re saying why do we here in the Paramore area on the west side of Orlando have to take the brunt of homelessness? … They would rather see $5 million, go towards purchasing a hotel and creating an opportunity for residents living on the streets,” said Hill.

Commissioner Hill says she’s now trying to put together a task force that would study the impact of existing homeless services on the community.

But  business owners we spoke to say they’re frustrated with the talking and want to see a solution sooner rather than later.

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“Whatever they’re going to do, they need to make the decision and get it done. These people need help,” said Arthur.

Meanwhile the City of Orlando says they plan on holding additional sessions in Parramore to discuss the Christian Service Center project.

At this time, a city spokesperson says they do not have a potential timeframe for when a funding agreement could come forward.

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