The First Step Homeless Shelter continues to overcome hurdles.
Even though some people said it could never be done, that there would not be enough community support for the project, that there was no adequate place to build it and that there was not enough money to make the project a reality, the First Step Shelter's opening is getting closer and closer.
Rev. Ronald Durham reflected on those four virtual "walls" that have crumbled over the course of the last five years since the homeless shelter's inception. Despite the latest news that the shelter will not officially open until 2019, leaders, both legislative and faith-based, from all over Volusia County attended the First Step Shelter's groundbreaking ceremony at its construction site on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
“It is because of all of you that we have now come to this historic day in the county of Volusia," Durham said. "First Step Shelter, and all that it represents, is in an inspiration to all of us that good works can be achieved by communities that share a common vision.”
That common vision is to end homelessness for those who desire to change their status, said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry. He said another of the shelter's goals is to take it off public funding, calling it a "herculean endeavor" and one that would need the support of many members of the community. He added that First Step is not a perfect project, but it's part of a larger solution.
“We will need each of you to stand with us and to work with us as we aspire to make this a step in the right direction, a step out of homelessness, a step towards the homeless individuals’ opportunity to fulfill the American Dream," Henry said. "But we will not be able to achieve that alone.”
While it was announced at the shelter's board meeting on Nov. 21 that First Step might not open it's doors until late 2019, a full year and a half from Henry's initial hopes of having the shelter be operational in spring of 2018, City Commissioner Dwight Selby said doors could open a lot sooner than that.
“I think there’s a lot of community pressure to get it done faster, and so I think everybody is focused in on how quickly we can move this along," said Selby, who serves on the First Step Shelter Board.
He said the importance of the project was that the community, from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet, is coming together to solve the growing problem of homelessness.
The First Step Shelter has garnered support from cities like Ormond Beach and Port Orange, who have pledged $82,000 and $35,000 respectively, as well as the county who has put aside $2.5 million for the shelter's construction. Faith-based organizations like Halifax Urban Ministries and Catholic Charities.
Durham said helping the homeless is not an easy calling, and thanked all those who helped and will continue helping move the First Step project forward.
“Many of you in this audience have been on the front lines of attacking this problem of homelessness for many years, and I would dare say if I asked you to roll up your sleeves, I’d see the battle scars that prove you’ve been fighting," Durham said.