Daytona Beach, FL - An annual operating budget of $1.1 million is in effect after First Step Shelter Board members adopted it at Monday night's (July 15) meeting. That amount covers the cost of 40 to 45 people staying at the homeless assistance center at one time. Board member Chase Tramont said that it's common sense to budget for what you have on hand now.
The original plan to have 100 beds has been changed to starting small and work to expand the number of beds to 100 in the future. Tramont thinks it's a better idea to start small and Catholic Charities agrees, making the recommendation for the Shelter to work it's way up to 100 beds.
An issue that is a point of contention for Tramont and other Board members is the safe zone. Tramont said he and several other Board members were under the impression that the safe zone would be hidden somewhere on the 600 acre-plus city property far from the building. He thinks placing the safe zone near any door is a bad idea. The city of Daytona Beach has a different idea according to Dr. L. Ronald Durham. He told members that a 1,800 square foot cement slab will be planned near the front door with some sort of overhead cover to provide shade and protect from the rain.
Some Board members feel that the shelter project is being run behind the scenes by staff members inside Daytona Beach City Hall, leaving the Board out of the information loop. Tramont and other Board members would like a meeting with the Daytona Beach City Commission so that they could all be on the same page.
Another issue is the shelter kitchen. Board members think that buying used commercial kitchen equipment so that food can be stored and cooked on site. Tramont said that people staying in the shelter could learn job skills by working in the kitchen, serving food and taking part in the cleanup. Daytona Beach city staff is looking into getting all meals from the kitchen of the Volusia County Jail. There's also been discussion of the Jail doing shelter resident's laundry.
Tramont said that bringing people into the shelter and doing everything for them is not going to help them learn self-sufficiency. He also quoted something said by another Board member, Dwight Selby, an Ormond Beach city commissioner that, "If you're giving them jail food, jail sporks to use, jail shoes and putting a fence around a concrete slab right outside, adjacent to the building, what's the difference between that and jail?"
Being focused on being ready to open the doors to the First Step Shelter on day one is critical, according to Tramont. He said you only get one chance to make a first impression. Tramont says given the progression of the building, he doesn't see any reason it won't be ready to open in October, except for uncontrollable events.