BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Temperatures dipped into the 30s over the past week and many of the area’s homeless were left out in the cold.
The only Volusia cold weather shelter was at First United Methodist Church, 305 Dunlawton Ave., Port Orange. The church has a capacity of 34 beds available.
A homeless man that would only identify himself as Rob told the Daytona Times, “I spent the night there. They are very nice people. Last year, more shelters opened, but this year looks like some places backed out for some reason. They don’t open shelters until it gets under 40 degrees. Other than that, they say it’s not cold enough.”
Not enough beds
The church was open last weekend and was scheduled to remain open through Thursday.
“We are looking at opening another one or two, but with it being Christmas time right now many churches have Christmas programs and services going on,” said Jeremy Royce, Rapid Re-Housing Manager of Halifax Urban Ministries.
The homeless sign up for the shelter through Halifax Urban Ministries (HUM) at its location at 340 North St. HUM specializes in homeless services.
“They sign up through us. We usually put the signs out. We direct them and provide transportation. A lot of times we just don’t have enough beds,” said Royce.
HUM provides cold weather clothing at its 215 Bay Street location along with showers, food and coffee. Food also is served daily at the North Street site from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In the works
There are plans in the works for several shelters in the area. The City of DeLand plans to build one on the west side of the county while the City of Daytona Beach just broke ground on the First Step Shelter. HUM also plans to open Hope Place at the old Hurst Elementary School in Holly Hill.
Construction of the Daytona facility won’t be completed for two more years. Hope Place is facing delays.
The city doesn’t have an emergency cold weather shelter. A Volusia County spokesperson confirmed via email that it doesn’t do a cold weather shelter for the homeless either.
More help needed
Advocates believe more needs to be done, especially by local churches.
“They open shelters, but they haven’t had enough beds. They really don’t do much until it’s a sustained cold snap, but right now it’s pretty bad. Cold shelters run by the churches can open, but only if it gets 40 degrees. We don’t know why more churches aren’t opening up,” said Mike Pastore.
Royce noted, “We need more churches to open up. We need more churches here in Daytona to open. There are a lot of big facilities around. We need the community and other organizations help as well. We need donations and we need cash donations.’’
Avoiding the law
Not only are the homeless battling the cold, they also have other issues, including trying to avoid the police.
“I got a $100 fine because my basket was under a gazebo in City Island Park. If I had $100, I’d be in a hotel instead of on the streets,” a homeless man named Rob told the Daytona Times.
Ronald, another homeless man, also complained about the lack of services. “Nobody is really doing anything for us. We just prepare to hunker down out in the streets. Whenever they do something for us homeless people, it is always so many rules and regulations that hinder it.
He added, “Some cops are good and treat us well. Others take their job too serious and really mistreat us. Bad enough we have to be out in the cold.”