The First Step Shelter (FSS), a 15,000-square-foot facility, located at 3889 W. International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach, opened its doors in December 2019 to the single-adult homeless community of Volusia County. The shelter has two dorms that can temporarily house 120 men and women. There are seven staff members who can help new residents in all aspects of their life. Medical and mental health care is also provided. However, those in need can not just walk into the shelter.
To become a resident, the homeless person must be referred by a church, social service agency or law enforcement. Law enforcement has the authority to transport homeless persons to the facility. Some of the “resident criteria” listed on the website, FirstStepShelter.org, include: must be 18 years or older, must be a Volusia resident, can not have open warrants, must not meet Baker Act or Marchman Act criteria and can not have an emergent medical condition i.e. broken bones, open wounds, incoherent, etc.
According to the website, Volusia County lacks a centralized intake center to help homeless individuals navigate available services and find permanent housing. There is no safety net for people who fall on hard times. The National Coalition for the Homeless cities that 75 to 80 percent of homeless are not mentally ill. Rather, much homelessness is due to the lack of a living wage, medical bankruptcy and a lack of affordable housing. The longer someone is homeless, the less likely it is that they will be able to transition back into permanent housing.
The shelter is owned by the city of Daytona Beach and overseen by First Step Shelter Inc., a non-profit set up by the city. Local funding needs to be spent on the first step out of homelessness, coordinated intake and emergency shelter. Government stakeholders include Daytona Beach, Volusia County, Daytona Beach Shores, Holly Hill, Ormond Beach, Ponce Inlet, Port Orange and South Daytona. Private business donors and contributing partners are listed on their website.
Permanent housing is the end goal of the FSS. To meet that goal, FSS employs a case management staff person to serve as the Housing Coordinator. Under the supervision of the Director of Operations, case managers are responsible for assisting residents in identifying appropriate housing opportunities. They provide training to clients in regards to different housing opportunities, budgeting and maintaining a household.
FSS case managers work collaboratively with representatives from the county and Municipal Housing Authorities, County Department of Human Services, and with representatives of other non-profit agencies and the faith community that provide housing programs.
The shelter needs assistance with finances, volunteers and clothing for its residents. For more information, to volunteer or donate, call (386) 383-0801 or visit FirstStepShelter.org.