DeLand, FL - A plan to get homeless families off the streets moves forward in Volusia County while another plan for a homeless shelter near the county jail remains in limbo.
The Volusia County Council signed off unanimously during Thursday's meeting on a $1,010,700 purchase of Hurst Elementary School in Daytona Beach from the Volusia County School Board.
The county will give that abandoned campus on 1340 Wright Street to Halifax Urban Ministries so the non-profit group could convert it into "Hope Place" - a homeless shelter specifically for families - by 2017.
County officials say Hope Place will be a training and professional development center whose goal is to give homeless kids and their parents a place to stay while getting back on their feet.
As part of that plan, the VCC is expected to fork over another $3.5 million later this year to reconfigure the main campus building in a way that best suites HUM's mission.
The positives vibes generated from Hope Place were gone by the afternoon as council members debated over 2 hours without taking any concrete action on the Safe Harbor project being pushed by Daytona Beach.
City and county leaders have been at odds for months over how to fund the project, one that aims to create a 250-bed facility near Volusia County Jail where the area's chronic adult homeless can stay as they take advantage of various programs that help them transition to a life off the streets.
Thursday was the drop-dead date of a VCC-imposed deadline for the Daytona Beach City Commission to accept its offer of land and $4 million in construction costs in exchange for the county not being liable for any operation money.
But during its meeting the night before, the DBCC chose instead to only commit to $400,000 in yearly operating costs, well below the estimated $1.6 million it'll take to get Safe Harbor going.
City leaders have said repeatedly that it can't fund the yearly operating costs on its own and have insisted that the county and other municipalities in Volusia also provide some money for that. So far, that hasn't happened.
County officials indicated during the meeting that they're ready to move onto other potential solutions besides Safe Harbor but didn't totally rule out the plan moving forward.
Also on Thursday, the VCC heard a presentation from a panel of 3 local homeless experts who are trying to create an overall game plan involving county and city governments to solve Volusia's homeless problem permanently.
Those experts - former Serenity House Chief Executive Officer Randy Croy, former United Way of Volusia & Flagler President Ray Salazar and former Stewart-Marchman Act CEO Chet Bell - urged the county to form a homelessness commission, develop a plan to get homeless off the streets permanently and figure out the best way to spend funds specifically designated for the homeless.
Croy, Salazar and Bell gave a similar presentation recently to the Roundtable of Volusia County Elected Officials.
County officials noted during the meeting that Volusia has spent over $35 million in the past 5 years on homeless prevention services, mainly through state and federal grants. At least $8 million has come from the county's general fund.
Copyright 2016 Southern Stone Communications.