On Volusia: Do the Right Thing

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?”

He’s right.

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.

6 thoughts on “On Volusia: Do the Right Thing

  1. I have resided in South Florida for about 15 years, from CT originally. Lived in New Hampshire and Washington D.C. I have never, ever seen a tent City erected or even allowed to be erected. The City of Daytona needs some new leaders. City staff and County staff also. Homeless and numerous non profits, including churches, HUM, Salvation Army, United Way have become a growth industry. As long as the churches and non profits provide 3 meals and a cot, the homeless will never advance out of their situation. I frequent the Ormond Beach library to socialize. I recently noticed a recognizable homeless person, who was freshly showered, fit, trim counting his personal money outside the library in the bushes. The stack of money was significant. I have seen this man panhandling from Ormond Beach to Mason.

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  2. Well said. We who live here and must promote the area as part of our work are truly over the rhetoric. Pull the trigger on something—anything!! Our law enforcement and hospitals end up dealing with this at further (unaccounted for) expense. All while our tourists who dare to visit our beautifully designed waterfront parks step over bodies along the trails. (No grand slogan will fix those lost opportunities by the way!) And you’re right, at the humanitarian level, these lives just hang in the balance. Been hearing the debate for the 25 years I have lived in Volusia County and virtually NOTHING has been done!

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  3. To me there are pl enty city oiwnef empty buildings why not open up for homekess and get as volunteer staff to monitor things yhat come ins and people sho come in the people who do monitor could be homeless too ifthry qualify for tghr job9th

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  4. The law says any government building that is vacant 6 or more months can and should be used as a homeless shelter. The army reserve at the marina on beach street has been vacant. I would love to get that process done, but I don’t know where to start. If anyone has any knowledge on how to do this I would appreciate it.

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  5. I went over christmas day and brought food for the people and pets. These were regular people down on their luck. I wanted to do more but i think they were afraid. Where i moved from they have missions the people get ssi or ssd checks and that runs the building. I’m sure donations came thru too. The people were alloted so much to live on. They kicked these poor people out cause the brats at the college and the race fans are all coming. So sad they helped the people from pueto rico but can’t help these folks. Shame on you. Remember when it’s time to vote for you.

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  6. We need a realistic long term solution to this problem,I work for a living and the truth of the matter is it’s just too expensive to maintain a place of residence with a regular low paying job.I make a reasonable living yet with just two weeks out of work I may be joining the homeless.A lot of the people on the streets didn’t decide that’s how they want to live,the decision was made for them according to life’s circumstances.
    I feel that programs should be set forward for the homeless to work and improve our communities and their own lives in tandem.A lack of education holds a lot of people back from their full potential and more times than not that stems from lack of opportunity or due to circumstances beyond their control.
    It is very unfortunate that the many who have done so well are reluctant to help the ones who struggle daily just to eat and find a dry safe place to sleep.A hand up would be sufficient to pull a lot of these folks out of the hole they are in.
    Some people are quiet possibly beyond conventional help yet even they deserve an opportunity to grow.

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