A one-stop Emergency Resource Center is set to open in Kissimmee this year thanks to a partnership between an Osceola County government official and the Salvation Army.
The new facility is being touted as the first of its kind in Osceola County to offer necessities like hot food, a place to shower, job search assistance, shared office space, free medical care and more, according to officials at a Tuesday press conference.
Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman said the new center will not duplicate existiing resources and it will not be a homeless shelter.
With 19.5 percent of individuals in Osceola County living below the poverty line, Chapman said the goal is to work with established local nonprofits to help struggling residents escape poverty.
“Industry is growing here, but the problems are growing also,” Chapman said. “What matters is meeting basic human needs by offering a hand up, not a hand out.”
The announcement comes nearly two years after Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry first attempted to launch and fund a one-stop community crisis center and provide assistance to homeless residents and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Though Choudhry gained support from many members of the public and church leaders, she failed to gain support from her fellow county commissioners both times she sought funding from the board.
Over the last several months, Choudhry has worked closely with the Salvation Army, an international organization first established more than 150 years ago.
“I’m really excited and very happy the people in Osceola County will have a place when they’re experiencing hardship - a place where they can find an action plan to get on their feet as quickly as possible,” Choudhry said after the press release.
Chapman said the Salvation Army was happy to partner with the local official to open a comprehensive resource center in Osceola County.
“People who need help to help themselves will now be able to receive those resources because of this great commissioner,” Chapman said at Tuesday’s press conference.
The new center will likely be located at a church off U.S. Highway 192, though details are still being finalized.
It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said.
The space is already equipped with a large kitchen, bathrooms, office and classroom space and is easily accessible via public transportation. Showers and lockers will need to be added, but the facility has room for these amenities, according to a press release.
The church has agreed to offer the property for at least one year.
The Salvation Army, along with eight other nonprofit organizations, also received Community Betterment Grants from Choudhry on Tuesday prior to the announcement.
Every year, each of the five commissioners is given $50,000 in battlement grants – administered through the Osceola County Human Services Department – to use throughout their district.
Choudhry has never used her grants since she was elected to the board in 2016 and had a balance of $150,000 available to distribute.
She gave nine grants ranging from $800 to $50,000 for a total of $95,490.
Salvation Army leaders said fundraising efforts for the new Emergency Resource Center would begin this year. A specified goal was not mentioned, though Choudhry has said in the past it will take about $1 million to launch a one-stop center.
Salvation Army officials said they hope to gradually begin rolling out resources and services at the center between July and September.