BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Earlier this week, dozens of people had to leave a temporary homeless shelter behind the Salvation Army in Daytona Beach and move into local motels.
After being on the streets and in parks most of Monday, they were relocated to motels such as the Host Inn at 315 Bellevue Ave. and Royal Inn at 810 Ridgewood Ave.
Daytona Beach City Manager, Jim Chisholm allocated $25,000 without the approval of the city commission to cover the bill at the motels for 11 days.
As of Daytona Times’ Wednesday night deadline, commissioners had not decided whether to extend the stay an additional 19 days.
Scenes from earlier this year with homeless people sleeping outside of the front of county offices on Beach Street popped back up in people’s minds.
The city commission held a special session on July 28 to discuss what to do about a temporary solution but no agreement was reached.
“The goal of the last meeting was to discuss moving people from a shelter at the Salvation Army to another site. The Bridge Bed program over there has run out. We looked at other locations but the problem was none could be opened by Monday,” said Zone 2 Commissioner Pam Woods.
Woods is also the homeless liaison for the Volusia County school district.
Originally the city has discussed plans for a shelter but funding and community opinion have halted the progress.
Woods explained, “Money has been one of the main issues. We had an original shelter plan that didn’t fall through. It’s still a matter of what can be done and how to pay for it. Also, our city manager proposed the old Army Armory as a possible shelter but the community doesn’t want it there. The other problem is many neighborhoods don’t want any new homeless services.”
County officials are ready to help the city with such a shelter.
“We have the same position for the last two years. We are looking for the city to take the lead and the county will support it. We will help fund the project and get land. We’ve been waiting on the city to make the decision on what they want to do,” responded Volusia County Councilman Joshua Wagner.
City officials want to allocate $400,000 toward homeless services per year.
Current research shows that construction of a new permanent shelter could cost between $800,000 to $1.2 million.
“A shelter is not off the table. It’s still being considered. The issues of funding, when it can be open and what do you do in the interim remain. For taxpayers to shoulder this is asking a lot. That money comes from the same general fund that funds our Leisure Services, fire department, police, infrastructure and more. The question as a taxpayer in Daytona is whether or not you want to shoulder that costs,” commented Woods.
DeLand moves forward
Homelessness is an issue affecting the entire nation and Volusia County is no exception.
On the west side of the county, more progress has been made toward a homeless shelter as DeLand revealed plans to build a $4 million structure back in April.
“DeLand is putting together a plan to have their shelter built. They are raising money and we will assist them,” said Wagner. “It’s just hard to say. They have a different setup. They’ve already met with us and are ready to move ahead.”
Woods added, “DeLand is a different community. People feel very solid about their opinions. We have to do something in both the interim and the long-term.”
Hope in Holly Hill
Halifax Urban Ministries is also putting a new homeless facility on the east side of the county.
The faith-based nonprofit plans to transform the closed Hurst Elementary in Holly Hill into Hope Place. The facility will assist homeless families.
“That gives us two projects to help the homeless in Volusia county. I’m sure we can get something done in Daytona as well,” said Wagner.
Daytona is dealing with a chronic homeless problem.
Woods explained, “It’s different than women and children. The chronic homeless have drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and other problems. The chronic homeless are the most in need but people often want to help them the least. It’s a very difficult situation.”
‘We must compromise’
The city will continue to look at finding solutions for the homeless.
“We can either do nothing or do something. We could house up to 100 people per year ideally. What do we want to budget each year? Then how do we do it? We do need someone to step forward,” Woods told the Daytona Times.
“The city commission must decide what we want to do. Shelter is needed. Maybe we can’t do what we want but we can do what we can afford. A 40-bed shelter is possible. We must compromise and one of the problems is people are strong in their opinions and they aren’t flexible.’’