Without A Home

Chris Long & William Hayes Experience Homelessness

As you watch two NFL defensive ends who are best friends with little in common, you will see them experience homelessness and how difficult it really is. Chris Long and William Hayes of the St. Louis Rams ask for money right outside the stadium they play in, and are not recognized once. They wander with no where to go, sleep in cold, rainy conditions, and ask strangers for money. What they find is that they are looked at differently, treated differently. The people they meet all have a story, something that led them to same search for warmth on a cold night and spare change for a warm meal. 

Sometimes we don't think about how many people are homeless here in the panhandle of Florida as we are surrounded by beaches, blue water, and beautiful houses. But homelessness exists and is much more prevalent than many people know. The state of Florida has a homeless population of over 30,000 making it the third largest homeless populated state in America, right after New York. More than 80% of those 30,000 go unsheltered. You may see the same gentleman or lady who appears to be carrying all they own in a backpack on your way to work most days, and you may be compelled to help them in some way, with a cup of coffee or a sandwich, or a smile. What you may not notice is the amount of children who are in the same predicament, without a home, without shelter. 44.3% of the homeless in Okaloosa county are under the age of 18.

The Okaloosa Walton Homeless Continuum of Care is dedicated to the creating an opportunity to end homelessness. With programs and shelters serving all of Okaloosa and Walton Counties, they support life and transition into self-sufficiency through emergency shelters for women and families, veterans' employment programs, and resource and referral offices. Opportunity Place is one of their programs that provides emergency shelter for families with children and single women. Imagine going to school and trying to be a successful student without a place to come home and finish homework, or clean clothes, or knowing where your next meal will come from. 

Thanks to the heroes that work to fight this epidemic everyday, there are lives being changed. In January a little girl that had been severely burned entered the Opportunity Place Program and they were able to use DCWAF funds to assist with her medical needs and supplies. As you can imagine, medical care is a commodity, when one is homeless. A 3 year old was unable to form a single word when she arrived at the program but after enrolling her in proper childcare and referring her to speech therapy she was speaking in sentences prior to her exit from the program. Children are able to receive tutoring and our other partnering charities are helping these children as well. Shelter House is available for those families that are homeless because of an abusive situation. Food For Thought is providing backpacks of food for many of the homeless children in the schools.

You can help by donating meals or funds to Opportunity Inc.

By donating to DCWAF, you support Opportunity Inc. and our other partnering charities. 


Published on Thursday, June 4, 2015

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