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First Step Homeless Shelter Support Approved By Volusia County Council

By on April 20, 2017 in WNDB News

Volusia County, FL – After a presentation by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, and considerable discussion by Volusia County Council (VCC) members and concerned citizens, the Council voted 4-3 to support plans for the ‘First Step’ homeless shelter.

At the April 20 VCC meeting, Mayor Henry stated that for the past 5 years, “We have been pushing at what at times has felt like a large rock up a hill. But we feel that that rock is now properly situated for sculpting.”

With Mayor Henry were mayors from Ormond Beach, Port Orange, South Daytona and a group he said represented, “leading members of our community…elected officials, business leaders, social service agencies, members of the faith community, and ordinary citizens who reflect the extraordinary stance of compassion that consumes our community.”

Council members were presented with a proposal of the First Step Business Plan and Mayor Henry asked 3 things of the Council:

  1. “We are asking for County land for construction of this program. The County land is located…out near the jail. We are asking for that property or the capital cost to have it constructed just across the street on city property.”
  2. “We are also asking that the land be annexed to the city with the city accepting ownership of the facility and the responsibility to upkeep and maintain the facility.”
  3. “We are asking for $4 million of the $2 million to be used for construction of this facility with the balance being used over the next five years.”

Read the full business plan and proposal for the shelter here.

The 24-hour, 7-day per week shelter would need to be  “low-barrier,” according to Mayor Henry, meaning come-as-you-are, with no requirements for sobriety.

Concern was expressed at the VCC meeting about the shelter being located near the jail and transportation issues. According to the proposal, the location is 9 miles from Downtown Daytona Beach, 13 miles from Downtown DeLand, directly across from Stewart-Marchman Act Behavioral Healthcare services and within walking distance of the jail, which could be convenient for those leaving the jail needing shelter. In the end, the council decided to have County Attorney Dan Eckert draw up a contract with Daytona Beach to build the shelter on city-owned, rather than county-owned land. The shelter would still be located off of US-92, west of I-95.

In the proposed business plan, the annual operating cost for a 100-bed facility is $999,918, which could be scaled back, if needed.

During the council meeting, Vice-Chair Deb Denys said that Mayor Henry had previously threatened a demonstration would take place during a Shriner event at the Ocean Center if the council did not approve, which led to some controversy during the meeting.

Chair Ed Kelley said, “We have to do something. We can’t just do nothing. We have to take that first step.” The comments received applause from audience members.

Councilwoman Joyce Cusack said, “I stand willing to work with you to make this happen.”

Councilwoman Billie Wheeler supports the project plans but doesn’t think it’s quite where it needs to be at this time.

Councilman Fred Lowry proposed a workshop and stated he was not willing or ready to vote at the Thursday, April 20 meeting.

“This is the city of Daytona Beach project and if it goes on our County land it becomes our project. I don’t have faith in it. I really do not have faith in the project,” said Councilman Pat Patterson. “I do not think it is going to accomplish what everyone seems to think it’s going to be doing. I’m not in favor of any operating cost for this facility.”

“I am elated that we are at least in conversation about this,” said Councilwoman Heather Post.

Photo courtesy of Congarashu and Shutterstock.com.

Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2017.

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