Social Justice Game Changer: Martha Are

by Josh Cohen

Name: Martha Are

Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Washington Wizards (4/7/21)

As a teenager, Martha Are figured out what her passion and calling was. It was to help people living in poverty get back on their feet and overcome their challenges.

That’s precisely what she has done throughout her career. Now with 35 years of experience in homeless services, ranging from frontline work, running nonprofits, statewide advocacy and staffing a governor's council, Are has been a central figure in helping break the cycle of homelessness in various communities.

“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to work in my field of my passion my whole life,” she said.

As the CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, Are leads a team in facilitating homeless services across Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties. Programs include street outreach, emergency shelters, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, wrap around services, mainstream supports, employment and health care services, and housing services for homeless veterans.

Over the last year during the pandemic, more than 4,200 people in the three counties have moved from homelessness into housing and more than 1,800 people have moved into supportive housing. Also, Are’s work recently included placing more than 250 men, women and children experiencing homelessness into hotels to protect them from exposure to COVID-19.

Are has seen so many individuals and families reverse their misfortunes over the years. Each and every one of their stories is uplifting and they continue to inspire and motivate her.

“Everybody on my team feels excited and thrilled any time someone is able to move out of homelessness and into some form of stable housing,” Are said. “That’s the goal and that’s what keeps everybody going is knowing that that happens.”

It’s a tremendous boost, Are says, when organizations like the Orlando Magic bring more attention to issues such as homelessness. It, for one, gets the word out there that the problem is affecting many people. But also, it shows that there are community leaders doing all they can to help change the narrative.

The Magic’s involvement has also made a big difference on the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida’s strategic approaches to combatting the problem. While working side by side with Are and her staff, the Magic have been able to share innovative methods designed to enhance their programs and improve their results.

“The Magic have been fabulous, both being generous with dollars but also generous with employees’ time,” she explained. “We have been fortunate to have Magic representation on various boards and committees, especially Linda Landman Gonzalez (Magic Vice President of Community and Government Affairs). She and the Magic have led with their expertise in helping our homeless services network and the providers across our region to understand and build in some strategic thinking that may come more natural to a business community than to non-profit sometimes.”

About the Program: As part of the Magic and Steve Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.

Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.

“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”

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