H.O.M.E. of Daytona Beach and Air Occupy will host a World Homelessness Day event 5:30 p.m. Thursday, at the Pavilion on City Island, in Daytona Beach.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
All Edward Davis wanted to do was sleep. But, a homeless man in Daytona Beach, he knew that dozing off in public could get him thrown in jail.
Until last year, anyway.
Davis, along two other residents who are either currently homeless in Volusia County or have been in the past, founded H.O.M.E. of Daytona Beach (Homeless and Others for a Meaningful Exchange), an advocacy group for local homeless residents. After cofounder Brad Carter was arrested for sleeping in public, he went to court and rallied for a change to the ordinance.
And he won.
"We have helped people in ways that are hard to measure," Davis said of H.O.M.E. "In getting the sleeping ordinance struck down, we helped countless people not get arrested for falling asleep in public. Just the fact that everybody is now talking about how to get a shelter is due in large part to H.O.M.E.’s efforts for nearly four years."
It’s more of that kind of change that Project H.O.M.E. hopes to effectuate through its first World Homeless Day event this weekend, Ormond Beach’s Shannon McLeish said. A member of the organization, she is also co-host of Air Occupy, a nonprofit radio show which is will co-host the event, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Pavilion on City Island, in Daytona beach.
Last year, the groups hosted a candlelight vigil.
“We want to bring attention to (homelessness), bring awareness to it, bring some unity,” McLeish said of the event. “Bring together politicians and leaders, service organizers … and keep the energy behind it. I personally believe that we’re going to build something this year. There is going to be something to add.”
That something, she hopes, will be Volusia’s Safe Harbor program, a proposed shelter/jail-diversion initiative which would establish a community-sponsored location near the Volusia County Branch Jail for homeless residents to sleep at night, on mats on the floor, for free. It’s modeled after a similar program in Clearwater.
The center would also offer showers, a laundry room, computers, food and case managers who would help connect users with benefits. The initiative is being promoted countywide by Judge Belle Schumann.
“It’s very hard to function, much less get a job or think clearly, if you don’t get adequate sleep. It's a human need,” McLeish said. “(Judge Schumann) has spoken extensively about the cost to the community of criminalizing homelessness and has gone on to present a plan that could help to alleviate some of the need for shelter in our community."
There are about 5,500 people currently experiencing homeless in Volusia County, including more than 2,200 children, according to the Volusia Flagler Coalition for the Homeless.
"Homelessness is a vicious circle," Davis said. "It is very hard to keep yourself looking presentable, and if you go to talk to a potential employer, he will not hire you if you are not presentable. ... That is the value of a shelter."
“This is not a problem that is going to solve itself,” McLeish added. “I’m seeing many people who are elderly who are on the streets. It’s just shocking. … And we’re not getting the help that we need from the state and local government. … It leaves us as a community to figure out how we’re going to plug the gaps with less.”
This year’s event will feature a pot-luck dinner, live music and several speakers. The event will be moderated by Tom Truhlar, currently serving on the board for the Salvation Army, as well as Brad Carter and Edward Davis.
Air Occupy radio show broadcasts 11 a.m. every Tuesday, on Goliath Radio AM 1380 and online at GoliathRadio.com. Air Occupy is commercial-free and funded through grants and donations. Email [email protected].
H.O.M.E. of Daytona Beach, an organization that aims to highlight homeless residents’ rights to shelter, emergency care and freedom of harassment, can be found online, at homeofdaytonabeach.weebly.com.