New homeless outreach program partners Deputies with First Step Shelter.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office will be partnering up with the staff at First Step Shelter at 3889 W. International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach beginning next week to address homelessness in east Volusia County with an outreach program and a new public hotline.
According to a release, First Step’s new “Eastern Volusia Homeless Outreach Team” is set to start Monday, August 1, with a deputy accompanying an outreach worker visiting people who may be candidates for the First Step Shelter or other resources. While visiting camps and other areas, the outreach worker will invite candidates to try the shelter’s secure outdoor “safe zone,” where beds, bathrooms, food, and water are available. For those who accept the invitation, First Step will arrange transportation, and a deputy will begin the background check process for formal admission to the shelter program.
The shelter is also deploying a new 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hotline, 386-999-HELP, for Volusia residents and businesses to request services for people they believe are in need, and for those experiencing homelessness, to find out about the resources available. The hotline will provide follow-ups on resident requests, and when a resident or business reports an issue, the outreach team will respond, visit the subject of the call, and then report back to the caller with the results.
“Our goal is to meet people where they are and give them a chance to access the services they might need,” said Dr. Victoria Fahlberg, First Step’s Executive Director. “For those who are looking for a new path, we can be that first step to starting a new life in stable housing.”
The new outreach program intends to help First Step reach more candidates for its services in the six east Volusia cities that contribute funding to the First Step Shelter program. Those cities include Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Holly Hill, Daytona Beach Shores, and Ponce Inlet.
“We’re proud to partner with First Step on this effort to help people change their lives,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who is also stationing a deputy at First Step Shelter as part of the partnership. “When we find someone who’s looking to get off the street and into a safer, more stable environment, our deputies will be there to help them get through the door.”
The First Step Shelter opened in December 2019 and has a capacity of about 60 single adult residents, which should expand to 70 with additional staffing.
In addition to shelter, First Step provides access to comprehensive health, addiction and counseling services, and helps residents find employment and housing, which is the primary goal of First Step Shelter.
“There’s no quick fix to end homelessness anywhere in America, but we can make a difference in our own community by working together,” said Daytona Beach Mayor and Chairman of First Step Shelter’s Board of Directors, Derrick Henry. “With the outreach and collaboration this project brings to bear, I believe the public is going to see what’s possible for those who take advantage of everything the First Step Shelter has to offer.”
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