The board has begun conversation about permanent housing for the homeless.
The First Step Shelter Board is starting to look beyond the construction of the shelter into what should come next to end homelessness in Volusia County: establishing a permanent housing option for those who graduate from First Step.
The board met on Monday, March 19 at the Daytona Beach City Hall where they engaged in a conversation via Skype with three representatives from Soldier On, a private nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts that works to end veteran homelessness. The organization has both transitional and permanent housing available, and board member Rev. Ronald Durham said Soldier On has a high success rate.
“The key to the success of First Step is the second step, and this organization has a proven track record across the country," Durham said.
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who is also the chair of the board, said First Step would be an ideal partner for Soldier On if they choose to go ahead and start an initiative in the local area. If this happens, the board will need to decide where a facility could be located. One parcel that was brought up is located on George Engram Boulevard, which is owned by the Daytona Housing Authority.
“They’re coming with the resources," Durham said. "They’re coming with the expertise and all they have to do is let us partner with them.”
Various members of the local homeless community, led by advocate Michael Pastore, attended the board meeting to voice their opinions on the subject. One of them was Patricia Harris, a Daytona Beach native who has been homeless for 13 years. She emotionally told the board that she has tried to get herself together numerous times, but that she "falls short" and ends up back on the street.
Harris said this initiative is very important to her.
“I’m willing to get it right," Harris said. "I just need that step to help me. I need help — I just can’t get off the street on my own.”
The board also discussed the ongoing application process for an executive director of First Step. Durham also gave an update regarding construction. The architecture plans are currently 30% completed, with the foundation plan in the process of being finalized.
Updated 10:15 p.m. A previous version of this story stated a possible parcel for Soldier On was owned by the city of Daytona Beach. It has been updated to accurately show it is owned by the Daytona Housing Authority.