BY AMANDA KOONS
ORLANDO – With homelessness on the rise, shelters and life-transformation service providers like Orlando Union Rescue Mission need help now more than ever.
Chances are, if you’ve driven through Orlando, you’ve witnessed your fair share of homelessness. Between tents set up beside Exploria Stadium, panhandlers on the road medians, and beggars on the street, Orlando has a problem. According to the Homeless Service Network, Central Florida saw a 5% increase in homelessness from 2022-2023 alone.
This growth of homelessness, according to Orlando Union Rescue Mission, began during the pandemic and has never slowed down. The demand for shelter and resources is so great that the Mission’s waitlist includes over 100 families prevented from receiving the help they need due to lack of space and insufficient funds.
“At the Mission, we see lives transformed every day through the services we provide,” Volunteer Coordinator, Nickalos Wise shares. “Families leave with the means for a life of self-sufficiency and independence – but that process takes time. And, with so many others in need, it feels like the clock never stops.”
With so much demand, the Mission is emphasizing volunteer recruitment. “We can’t do this alone,” Wise says. While the Mission seeks more help, they do recognize many amazing individuals, organizations, and companies who offer continued support such as Agape Perfecting Praise Church, St. Mark AME, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Omicron Omega Chapter, just to name a few.
Just a few blocks away from the Mission, Lakeview Funeral Home, formerly Batts Funeral Home, is one such volunteer. “As a business, we are committed to the values of compassion and dignity. We can’t think of a better way to live out those values than to drive down the street to our friends at Orlando Union Rescue Mission and give to the community,” states Cynthia Batts, the new owner and Funeral Director. Lakeview Funeral Home’s volunteer work focuses primarily on providing healthy and warm meals for Mission guests. Cynthia Batts and her business partner, Johnetta Batts, plan on preparing and serving dinner at the Mission’s Family Home often. “By providing the meal, we relieve the Mission of a financial burden. In return, we have the joy of meeting the guests and seeing their gratitude for the meal we provided. It’s a touching experience,” says Batts.
Support at the Mission isn’t exclusively needed in the kitchen. Volunteers may also choose to serve in the Mission’s youth programs, through maintenance and yardwork, by sponsoring a birthday party or Mission event, and more. Wise claims, “It’s not just about practical help. Volunteers lift the spirit of guests living at the Mission by showing they care and believe in our guests’ success. People who are down on their luck need that encouragement more than anyone.”
To learn more about volunteering at the Mission or to sign up, reach out to Nichalos Wise at Nickalos.Wise@ourm.org.
To support the Mission monetarily, visit ourm.org/donate, call Nora Pacheco, Donor Relations Coordinator at 407.965.2177, or visit us at 1521 W. Washington St. Orlando FL 32805.
To learn more about Lakeview Funeral Home, visit lakeviewfuneralhomeorlando.com