- Your News
By Ken Jackson
Osceola County officials are addressing the issue of homelessness and families living in local hotels along the tourist corridor through a novel new approach.
For the first time in the state of Florida, a former hotel has been renovated, retrofitted and turned into apartments geared toward families who want safe housing and, in turn, a better quality of life.
Officials cut the ribbon on Victory Village, the former Four Winds Hotel, on West U.S. Highway 192 Tuesday. Applications will be taken during the next month for the 20 rent-controlled, unfurnished units, with the first families expected to move in around Nov. 1.
The project takes some very low-priced motel rooms out of the inventory of an area not considered part of the tourist corridor anymore. Victory Village is located along a U.S. 192 bus route just west of Medieval Times and the west Kissimmee Walmart.
“People who work need transportation,” said County Commissioner Mike Harford, whose district 1 includes the U.S. 192 corridor. “Some of the other hotels in the area might be salvageable, but I hope to see that something like this works.”
The former motel rooms have been expanded into one, two and three-bedroom apartments that feature amenities such as hardwood floors, Formica kitchen countertops and energy-efficient refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The complex also includes a laundry room and family play area with grills on site.
In addition, the Community Hope Center of Osceola, a resource center that helps the homeless find jobs, housing and utility bill assistance, is right across the parking lot.
The project cost $1.8 million, much of it coming from a federal grant, with the rest generated through private donors.
The Transition House, a nonprofit organization celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing transitional housing in Osceola County, was chosen by the county in August 2012 to develop the project. Transition House partnered with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and its Neighborhood Stabilization Program to make Victory Village a reality.
“The name of it is right, it really took a village to construct,” Harford said.
Transition House CEO Tom Griffin said everything fell into place the right way to make Victory Village happen.
“We thought changing a motel into apartments was a reasonable use,” he said. “We chose this location because it was in foreclosure, has a brick façade and gabled roofs, and is a 10-minute walk from shopping. It’s a win-win for everybody, the hotels, the homeless and the construction industry, and it goes along with the West 192 Community Redevelopment Association plan.”
He said that since this type of project had not been done before under strict state and federal guidelines, some of the work required creative measures.
“We should write a book about it,” Griffin said. “It’s not like we were reinventing the wheel.”
Qualification for the low-income and very low-income housing is based on the household’s annual income. A couple who earn $37,450 or under annually is considered low-income, while a family of four would be very-low income at $29,250 per year.
Applicants who qualify may be eligible for security deposit assistance based on the availability of funds. The application process will be done through Osceola County; for more information, applicants are asked to call 407-742-8411.