The problem with doing someone a favor is eventually they come to expect it from you.
Just ask the City of Daytona Beach.
This week, city staff let the First Step Shelter Board know that conditions at the homeless “safe zone” near Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue have become untenable.
In fact, the place has taken on the appearance of Toussaint’s leper colony in French Guiana, and anyone who has driven by the burgeoning tent city can see that something must change.
It’s also clear that city officials are getting pressure from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and other strong forces, to move the camp out of a major commercial corridor – a location which is literally in the side-yard of Daytona International Airport.
I understand their concern.
After thoughtful discussion, board members rejected the city’s request to spend $585,555 to develop an alternative site in the scrub west of Derbyshire Road. The idea of moving the encampment to the “Boomtown Boulevard” area of the LPGA corridor is counter to the thriving, multi-use gateway many are working and spending to achieve.
I understand that decision as well.
The fact is, the City of Daytona Beach has done their level best to find a compassionate solution to this growing issue while other elected bodies, namely the Volusia County Council, have sat on their ass and done nothing – except take convenient credit for the good work of others.
On Wednesday, Chief of Police Craig Capri, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, didn’t mince words, “The current situation is not working. Why does Daytona Beach always have to take the brunt of it?”
From the moment city officials took the reins and intervened in the Great Homeless Standoff of 2016, partnering with the Salvation Army to move entrenched street people from the front of the Volusia County Administration Center on Beach Street, Daytona Beach has demonstrated a true hands-on willingness to help.
Now, it is time for Volusia County government to become an active part of the solution, you know, like our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, said they were during his haughty State of the County Address.
By any measure, the economic and social impact of chronic homelessness is a countywide problem – which deserves a countywide solution.
Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on – we are facing a true humanitarian crisis that simply cannot be ignored while we wait on a more permanent answer – and save the bullshit tough-talk and “let ’em starve” rhetoric for someone else.
Look, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I find that flippant attitude immoral.
We have a warm and dry facility to house and nourish stray dogs – and we should probably have something similar to provide basic, temporary shelter from the elements for our fellow human beings who cannot care for themselves.
Why? Because its the right thing to do. That’s why.
With the First Step Shelter more than a year from completion (?), it is imperative that local governments find a way to work collaboratively to develop an effective alternative. After all, that’s what it means to serve in the public interest – and while that concept is foreign to many area politicians – sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and make things happen. . .
Perhaps Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm’s idea of each municipality identifying its own safe zone is a fair and equitable (albeit temporary) solution to the Halifax areas current quagmire.
I mean, if the mosaic of east Volusia municipalities each want their own fiefdom, then you have to take the good with the bad. But in universal issues that effect all of us, County government has an obligation to find comprehensive answers.
Good luck with that.
In my view, rather than demonstrate strong leadership on this important issue (or anything else for that matter), Volusia County has – in typical fashion – turned its back on the citizens of Daytona Beach, choosing to simply throw our money around, rather than roll up their sleeves and help with the heavy lifting.
As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, it’s easy to criticize how the doer of deeds could have done them better – God knows, I do it all the time. But I truly commend the City of Daytona Beach for bearing the full impact of this difficult problem, all while working diligently to find an effective and benevolent way forward.
Now, it’s time for Volusia County – and other area municipalities – to step up and do the right thing.