Daytona Commissioner Speaks On First Step Shelter

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Daytona Beach, FL - Getting the First Step Shelter up and running has been challenging, to say the least. The Board is getting frustrated and the Director, Mark Geallis, is stepping down.

During an interview last week on the Marc Bernier Show, Daytona Beach Zone 4 City Commissioner Rob Gilliland tried to put things in perspective.

The way the plans for the shelter are structured is the city owns the building and leases it back to First Step Shelter, which is a 501-C-3 nonprofit created by the city to oversee shelter operations. According to Gilliland, the non-profit's two responsibilities are to oversee the contract that's been entered into with Catholic Charities. The other is fundraising.

Gilliland said Board members are not getting good information about fundraising. He also said that the panhandling ordinance that went into effect earlier this year, may have put a damper on fundraising. When the panahandlers were on the street corners, people were reminded of the urgency of the situation. Now that they are not, that urgency is gone.

There's been talk that the money that the city of Daytona Beach has contributed towards the project can only be used for certain things. Not so, said Gilliland. The city agreed to put $400,000 annually towards development and operations. Gilliland said that means that anything needed for the shelter, such as pets, pots and pan, computer stations, etc. can be bought with the money. He said he has confirmed that with the city attorney.

Gilliland said the city has been involved with the First Step Shelter since 2016 and has already made two payments of $400,000 for 2017 and 2018. He said the city will pay that smae amount of money for a total of eight years. Volusia County is donating matching funds, beginning this year.

After the First Step Shelter board meeting on May 7, Gilliland said when he found out that directors were thinking that things were unraveling, he steeped in and said, "Let's take the path of least resistance, right now. Lets plan on opening a 50 bed shelter in October. We've got plenty of money to do that. Your sitting on, at that point, $1.2 million of city funds."

Gilliland said the construction is scheduled to be finished in September. He'd like to see First Step Shelter open on October 1, as planned. Gilliland said there's plenty of money to get the doors open.

The next meeting of the First Step Shelter Board is scheduled for May 21.

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