Kissimmee ministry struggles to help homeless in Osceola County

By Stephanie Bechara, Osceola County Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017, 6:47 PM EDT

Recent statistics show a rise in homelessness in Osceola County and one local ministry is gearing up to help those in need.

  • Osceola Christian Ministry Center helps 100 a day
  • Osceola County estimates it has 239 homeless people
  • That number doesn't include those who live in motels

Samuel Jenkins is a U.S. Army veteran who is now homeless. He volunteers at the Osceola Christian Ministry Center’s kitchen, Monday through Friday.

“Everybody has issues, but we don’t know their issues,“ he said.

The Ministry Center is run by the First Baptist Church of Kissimmee. The center has a clothes closet, showers, even a medical and dental clinic. About 25 churches are involved in serving hot meals daily.

Pastor Tim Wilder said that with the lack of a shelter in town, they provide services to about 100 people a day.

“We do what we do to soften hearts, so we can share Jesus Christ with them,” Wilder said. “If you want to change behavior, you have to change the heart. But if your stomach is hungry, you don’t want to listen to what people have to say.”

Wilder said the number of people camping out near the center has gone up. A countywide calculation estimates there are 239 homeless people in Osceola County. That's up 37 percent from last year.

A spokesperson with Osceola County said that heavy rains may have been a factor as to why last year's numbers were lower.

It's also important to note, these numbers also do not include those living in hotels or motels.

“Outside of the Magic Kingdom... is the tragic kingdom, some of the saddest places where these people live. It’s our community and we love the people, we love the kids,” Wilder explained. “So we’re a friend to the community. We want to wrap our arms around the kids here in this community. That’s why we do what we do.”

Jenkins said he hopes one day local government can create different living arrangements for all types of people.

“Just give them a spot somewhere so they could pitch a tent; live but keep that area clean as well and the surrounding area. That’s what I would try and do,” Jenkins said.