BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
A presentation, action plan and recommendation on the city and county’s growing homeless problem was presented by Robert G. Marbut Jr., Ph.D., at Wednesday night’s Daytona Beach City Commission meeting.
The commission chambers were standing room only as over a dozen people addressed the commission on the hot topic.
Eleven cities within Volusia County, with the City of Daytona Beach acting as the lead agency, tasked Marbut Consulting with developing recommendations for reducing street-level homelessness throughout the county by suggesting more effective methods of helping homeless individuals and families.
According to a report shared with the Daytona Times in April, F.A.I.T.H., (Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony), an inter-faith organization comprised of over 30 congregations in Volusia County, says there are estimates of 2,000 homeless children in Volusia County’s schools. Although there are more than 5,000 homeless people in the county, there are only 21 emergency beds for single homeless people.
F.A.I.T.H. has a 13-year history of mobilizing large numbers of people around issues of injustice.
Volusia Safe Harbor
Marbut recommended that Volusia County come together to “build, create and open a 24/7/168/365 Come-As-You-Are (CAYA) Services Center for single homeless men and women called Volusia Safe Harbor.” He says that having the center would “dramatically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery by co-locating and integrating homeless services at one location.”
Marburt indicated that because of interconnected services and overlapping service populations, CAYA should be co-located and physically attached to the Stewart-Marchman-Act (SMA) facility at 1140 Red John Drive in Daytona Beach formally known as Volusia County Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), Detoxification Unit (Detox) and Emergency Screening (Pinegrove).
He further recommended that Halifax Urban Ministries is currently the best-suited agency to operate Safe Harbor. Service partner agencies such as Haven Recovery Center and Second Harvest should then be recruited to co-locate all or part of their operations.
Safe Harbor would house 250 individual men and women inside the facility, plus room for about 50 in an outdoor courtyard with a male:female ratio of about 3:1.Outreach, case management, medical, dental, vision, mental health, addictive and substance abuse service are slated to be offered as well as job placement services.
Additionally hygiene services such as 24/7 bathrooms and showers would be available..
Homeless weigh in
Overall, the report said there appeared to be around 375 to 450 individuals experiencing homelessness on the western side of county and about 400 to 475 on the eastern side of the county.
These observations were corroborated by a wide variety of “street-level” agency workers, firefighters and law enforcement officers.
“I have very little knowledge but I have something to say. This homeless thing has really become a mess. I’m homeless, I have mental illness,” Beverly Davis said, addressing the commission, adding that she also doesn’t get much medical assistance. “If you all move the coalition from North Street to way out there by the jail people such as myself who doesn’t have transportation to get around that’s going to be a burden. I have bipolar depression, hallucinations and am a schizophrenic. I need help, OK? Thank you.”
Marbut conducted his research by firstly becoming homeless. His report explained the reasoning behind this facet: “One of the most effective ways to gain accurate information about homeless services is to observe services from the view of person experiencing homelessness, rather than from an agency and/or government perspective. This vantage point combined with observations from other stakeholders help to provide a more complete picture of the existing issues. If one only observes homelessness from a service-provider perspective, he or she will only develop agency-centric solutions.”
Therefore, Marbut became homeless at the street level in Volusia County for several days and conducted research before agencies were notified of his start date and arrival.
Inventory of services
Next Marbut performed an inventory of homeless services in the Volusia County regional area and a needs assessment. Following these steps, Marbut conducted a gap analysis of services followed by a strategic framing of an action plan and draft and finally the presentation at the commission.
The report, which is 39 pages, recommends the entire Volusia County Community to move from a culture of enablement to a culture of engagement in all aspects.
This includes service agencies, volunteers, staffs, donors, funders, government agencies, programs, residents, tourists and the homeless community. In Volusia County, this is especially true for the faith-based community.
Free food handouts and cash from panhandling – although well intended by nice folks – actually perpetuates and increases homelessness through enablement. Street handouts of food and cash should be redirected to high-performing agencies.
The mission should no longer be to “serve” the homeless community, instead, the mission should be to dramatically and consequentially increase “street graduation” rates. A media and public awareness campaign needs to be developed to educate and encourage the community to move from a culture of enablement to a culture of engagement.
“We will always have questions, what you have provided are some answers,” Mayor Derrick Henry said to Marbut after hearing much of the presentation.
“As a collective community, well beyond Daytona Beach, as you can see here (referencing the standing room only commission meeting), We have to decide what the answers will be as a collective community,” Henry suggested. “It expresses how genuinely interested people are. All of whom have publicly highlighted their support for this endeavor. The real work starts now.”
“We are going to need all hands on deck,” continued Henry. “We have broad shoulders as a commission, but they are not nearly broad enough without a helping hand from across the county. We all know what needs to be done but need everyone on the ship. Once everyone is on the ship, we decide this is the ship we want to sail in the right direction.”
The price tag
Operating expenses for the Safe Harbor facility ring in at anywhere from 1.4 million to 2.4 million annually, Marbut told the Daytona Times, though he says the lower end is more likely.
The disparities come from whether or not the expense of food is donated or not. Marbut estimates food costs, if not donated will be $746, 516.
Other expenses in the estimate include yearly utilities at $84,000, 250 mattresses annually at $44 each, 250 pillows at $8 each and 500 blankets at $12 each. Staffing salaries and wages for the facility would cost $535, 832 for 11 staff and $379,491 for seven case managers. Overtime wages at $24,000 are also calculated in the final figure.
Father Phil Eggito addressed the commission representing F.A.I.T.H. He pressed the commission to move forward with Safe Harbor saying F.A.I.T.H. will do “all we can do to get the cities and county on board. You asked for all hands on deck. They are.”
“We really need the entire community to care about our homeless brothers and sisters. There are veterans, the mentally ill, there all types of people who are homeless,” Egitto previously told the Times.
“Let’s do and not talk,” Tammy Kozinski, owner of Sweet Marley’s, a coffee and café shop, added to the conversation. She added that giving the homeless a cheese sandwich does not equate to much. “Then they beg my customers for cash for drugs and prostitutes,” to a roaring applause from many seated in the commission chambers.
A turning point
“We are at what can be a turning point in our city and county’s history. From the very beginning most of the mayors have been very supportive of this concept. We recognize it’s going to take a big effort and a big commitment and I thank you for having the courage to jump at this fire.
Ten years from now, the mayor suggested, property values will increase, the number of people who are incarcerated because of homelessness and the amount of officers needed for situations involving the homeless will decrease. “There is almost no part of our budget that this won’t positively impact,” he concluded.
Marbutt was to give another presentation as well as hold a question-and-answer session to answer additional questions on Thursday, Oct. 2, at the DeLand City Chambers from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
“Daytona is on board 100 percent,” Commissioner Patrick Henry told the Times. “We need the other cities to get on board to finance this.”
For now, it is wait and see.
Marbutt earned a Ph. D. from the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas in International Relations (with an emphasis in international terrorism and Wahhabism), Political Behavior and American Political Institutions/Processes from the Department of Government.
He also has two Master of Arts degrees – one in government from the University of Texas at Austin and one in criminal justice from the Claremont Graduate School. His Bachelor of Arts is a full triple major in economics, political science and psychology from Claremont McKenna College.