Banned From Sleeping in Their Cars, Homeless Disney World Cast Members Can Live in Other People’s Garage

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

A diverse group of people, mostly young adults, are standing closely together, smiling, and looking ahead. They are all wearing teal uniforms with badges. Some are holding hands, creating a sense of unity and celebration. The background shows more people in similar attire.

Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney World Resort is so large that it stretches across two Central Florida counties, Orange and Osceola. Both counties are grappling with an issue directly impacting Disney World cast members.

Disney cast members looking in their wallets and purses at Disney World and Disneyland.
Image Credit: Inside The Magic

Related: After Criminalizing Homeless Disney World Cast Members, Florida Wants to Make it Easier to Commit them to Mental Hospitals

Since 2019, Osceola County has seen a 70 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness. Rev. Mary Downy, the CEO of Hope Partnership, which provides food and showers to people experiencing homelessness in Osceola County, told the Orlando Sentinel that her organization has seen a 20 percent increase in people seeking its services, and 1,300 people show up weekly seeking support.

These services directly impact Walt Disney World cast members. Approximately 10 percent of Disney World cast members are homeless and seeking these services and looking for affordable housing.

While homelessness has spiked in Orange and Osceola Counties, Florida has criminalized being homeless. The Florida Legislature passed, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed a law that makes public encampments a crime and makes it illegal to sleep on public property.

Disney cast members posing in a frame that reads "we are the magic"
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Worked Behind the Scenes to Pass Florida Law That Strips Disney World Cast Members of Basic Human Rights

Kissimmee, a city neighboring Disney World, has now made it illegal for people to sleep in their cars. When negotiating their new contract with Disney World, many employees complained about being unable to afford housing and being forced to sleep in their cars.

But now, Kissimmee, which doesn’t have a homeless shelter, has devised an innovative plan to stem the tide of homelessness in the city: it will pay homeowners to renovate their garages into studio apartments for low-income residents.

The Kissimmee City Council unanimously approved a study to determine the feasibility of this plan and the number of homeowners who would be willing to participate.

While this is in the early stages, there are still major hurdles that this program must jump over before it is approved. The city must determine how much it would cost and where it would get the funds.

Cast Members waving down Main Street, U.S.A, at Disneyland Park in Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

Related: With No Fanfare, DeSantis Signs Two Bills That Allow Disney World to Hire Kids for Dangerous Jobs

The city council already has some parameters that would eliminate most homes in the city. The homeowners would have to have a two-car garage, not live in a homeowners association, have a homestead exemption, and agree to keep the unit affordable. However, there is still no definition of what “affordable means.”

There are similar programs in place in New York and California, but this would be the first in Florida, which has the third-highest number of homeless people in the United States.

However, building these low-cost housing options for theme park workers poses risks to homeowners and could decrease real estate value.

Cast Members cheer on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris
Credit: Disney

If it works, this could be an affordable option for permanent residence in Central Florida for homeless workers at Walt Disney World and potentially a solution to America’s housing crisis.

For those who work in the tourism industry at one of the Disney Parks, who serve thousands of guests every day, finding a solution only feels right, and hopefully, this will be a solution.

Would you be willing to turn your garage into a living space for a Disney World employee? 

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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