African Americans have filed a civil rights complaint against the City of Orlando with Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which allege that the city has violated Florida State and Federal civil rights laws by a systematic practice of the concentrating social services in one section of Orlando that is predominately home to African Americans.
The complaint made by a community group called Save West Orlando, alleges a history of Orlando locating high concentrations of social service operations in African American communities which have created pockets of despair, and have disparate impacts to racial minority neighborhoods compared to the rest of Orlando.
When the City approved permits for a 200-bed men’s homeless shelter in the community residents realized their community had reached its breaking point.
The group is asking Pam Bondi to issue an injunction against the City of Orlando and the project developer, Orlando Development Partners LLC, to stop the construction of a men’s homeless shelter for the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, on property located in the community they call home.
“Mayor Buddy Dyer and The Orlando City Commission refused to listen to the will of the people who fought to stop the City’s planned relocation of a men’s homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood, so we organized to fight City Hall and save our communities,” said Homer Hartage, Former Orange County Commissioner, Chairman of Save West Orlando. “We won’t sit around any longer and let our communities continue to be sacrificed and citizens bullied by local government.”
According to Hartage, social services facilities are disproportionally located in this one west Orlando community. The list of more than thirty social services in the area include the Orange County jail, City of Orlando jail, mental hospitals, probation offices, women’s homeless shelter, drug rehab facilities, and criminal bridge centers. The long term result of this is neighborhood decay, as the historically African American neighborhood becomes a sacrifice zone to crime and all the social service projects that no one else wants.
The City of Orlando has made three attempts to place the high-capacity men’s homeless shelter in this disadvantaged minority community. It was initially rebuffed by Orange County when the County denied a zoning request to allow its construction because, in their view, the men’s homeless shelter would have been a detrimental intrusion into the surrounding area.
After this defeat, the City withdrew their request, and selected two additional locations in the same communities. The Orlando City Commission voted to approve the second location but was stopped when an appeal was filed.
While the City was still under an appeal process, the developer changed the project’s name to Project Hope and received development approvals from the City with no public input. The group said that there is clear evidence that the City knew Project Hope was really the men’s homeless shelter. Residents saw this as scheme to get the third location approved and prevent public protest, and have asked Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate.