HSN was established in 1993 by a small group of community advocates and was first led by Ms. Helaine Blum, Esq.—who also co-founded Grand Ave. Economic Development Corp, which offers hundreds of formerly homeless Central Floridians an affordable home. Subsequently, Ms. Marilyn Gordon and Ms. Cathy Jackson led the organization as it began to grow and diversify services throughout the tri-county area. In 2015, Ms. Martha Are joined HSN as Executive Director at a time when regional leaders made a renewed commitment to tackle chronic homelessness. Ms. Are, previously from North Carolina, brought with her expertise in HUDs (Department of Housing and Urban Development) Continuum of Care Program and a track record of success in implementing evidence-based Housing First/Housing Focus strategies to combat homeless.
Under HSN’s leadership, Central Florida has pulled down significantly more Federal, State and local jurisdictional funding towards the regional plan to end homelessness. Funding once focused on unsuccessful “housing-readiness” interventions were reallocated to data driven, best-practice interventions that provide housing as the first step in ending homelessness, followed by wrap-around supportive services to retain housing for those most vulnerable community members.
HSN acts as the lead agency for CoC FL-507, known popularly as the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (CFCH), which encompasses the geographic area of Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties. As the lead agency, HSN does not provide any direct service to persons experiencing homelessness. Instead HSN performs coordination, planning and administrative functions for CFCH partner agencies dedicated to providing direct crisis, recovery, and housing services. HSN’s primary functions are to assist CFCH stakeholders in: community-wide planning towards the goal of ending homelessness; maintaining a Coordinated Entry System for the purposes of prioritizing services to those most in need; operating a Homeless Management Information System for the purpose of serving clients and providing data to enhance intervention performance; developing a housing pipeline and sustaining tenancy for chronically homeless individuals; and maximizing the development and utilization of financial resources.