Dozens continue to camp outside a government building as city and county leaders battle over how to resolve local homelessness.
BY DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
Homeless people in Volusia County continued to camp out at a government building on Beach Street this week as plans to shut down operations at the site were put on hold.
Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials are still grappling with ways to fix the problem of homelessness that recently escalated publicly, with dozens of people finding shelter outside of the Volusia County Administration Center located in downtown Daytona Beach at 250 N. Beach St.
The homeless began setting up camp at the building after Manatee Island Park, which had restrooms, was closed to them by the City of Daytona Beach. City leaders cited that the bathrooms had been vandalized and needed repair.
At its Jan. 21 meeting, the Volusia County Council voted to advise the city to reopen Manatee Island Park as an interim solution.
Recent incidents at the county building have intensified the issue.
The county announced that services at the administration center would close after an employee in the property appraiser’s office filed a police report last week stating that a homeless person accosted her.
A county press release issued Tuesday stated that the incident prompted Volusia County Property Appraiser Morgan Gilreath “on his own’’ to pull his department’s employees out of the building, a move that caught County Manager Jim Dinneen by surprise. Gilreath said he made the decision in an effort to keep his employees and the public safe.
The county had announced last weekend that all government services would end this Friday and would be integrated into other county facilities because of the homeless who have camped out at the building.
“Once Mr. Gilreath represented to the news media the conditions at our building were unsafe for the public and our employees, he created a liability for us that put the county in a difficult position legally,” Dinneen stated.
According to a press release, the building houses tag, title and tax services, the property appraiser’s office, veterans services, human services, and offices for the court system and state attorney.
Dinneen said he reversed his decision after communicating Monday from Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
“The mayor sent us a letter late Monday in which he expressed the city’s desire for the city and county to continue to seek a joint solution to the problem,” Dinneen stated. “In response, I am putting on hold our decision to move out of the building.”
Dinneen said the county has beefed up security at the building with Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputies and private security.
When the temperature dipped to the 30s last week, temporary shelter was made available.
According to reports, just 20 of the homeless took advantage of shelter at the Salvation Army.
Many chose to bundle up and remain at the Beach Street address.
Earlier this week, four homeless people were arrested at the site. Two of them were charged with having an open container of alcohol and the others were charged with assault.
Issue of funding
Advocates for the homeless have made numerous appearances before city and county leaders over the past year, urging them to provide permanent housing for the area’s homeless.
Dinneen said County Chair Jason Davis will bring up a request for a joint meeting between the Daytona Beach City Commission and the Volusia County Council at the council’s Feb. 4 meeting in DeLand.
A plan has been executed for Volusia Safe Harbor, a proposed 32,800 square-foot building shelter and one-stop-shop complex for homeless people to receive help.
The county has agreed to put $4 million toward the estimated $3.8 million construction and donate a parcel of land near the county jail. Daytona Beach and other cities have passed resolutions of commitment for financial support for the shelter.
A notice posted Monday on the City of Daytona Beach’s website states that the municipality is “accepting donations to help fund short and long-term programs designed to help homeless people in our community.’’ The options are to donate to Homeless Emergency Assistance (short-term) or Volusia Safe Harbor (long-term).