DAYTONA BEACH – First Step Shelter has partnered with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in a new effort to reach homeless people struggling on the streets.
A new program began Aug. 1 that pairs a First Step Shelter outreach worker with a sheriff’s deputy, and together the two talk to homeless people in East Volusia County and offer help.
The Advocate and Assistant respond to calls from residents and businesses when they are concerned about someone they see on the street who appears to be homeless.
First Step Shelter has set up a hotline that anyone can call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number is 386-999-HELP.
A homeless person can also call the hotline for help.
“When the person wishes, they will be able to go to the safe zone where they will be assessed for our program,” said Victoria Fahlberg, executive director of First Step Shelter. “Regardless of the outcome, the team will call the caller back to explain what happened and the outcome of their interaction with the person.”
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First Step offers both a residential program that helps homeless adults stabilize their lives and settle into a place of their own, and an outdoor lodge called a “Safe Zone” where homeless people can stay for a limited time when they need a legal place to be or they are considering enrolling in the residential program.
There are currently 62 people staying inside the shelter. Since First Step opened in December 2019, 592 people have participated in the residential program and 296 of them have been housed.
“For those who seek a new path”
When the Outreach Worker and Deputy speak to a homeless person, they explain what is available to them at First Step Shelter, which is located approximately five miles west of Interstate 95 along the US 92 in Daytona Beach.
“Our goal is to meet people where they are and give them a chance to access the services they might need,” Fahlberg said. “For those looking for a new path, we can be that first step to starting a new life in stable housing.”
The outreach program aims to help First Step reach more homeless people in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Holly Hill, Daytona Beach Shores and Ponce Inlet – the six towns in eastern Volusia that are helping fund the First Step Shelter program.
When visiting camps and other areas, the outreach worker will invite applicants to try the shelter’s indoor residential program or a secure outdoor “safe zone” where beds, bathrooms, food and water are available. For those who accept the invitation, First Step will arrange transportation and an assistant will begin the background check process for official admission to the shelter program.
For those who are hesitant, the hotline number will be provided in case they decide they are interested or have further questions in the future.
“We are proud to partner with First Step in this effort to help people turn their lives around,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who posts a deputy at First Step Shelter as part of the partnership. “When we find someone looking to get off the streets and into a safer, more stable environment, our deputies will be there to help them through the door.”
Fahlberg said the 386-999-HELP hotline will also provide clear tracking of resident inquiries. When a resident or business reports an issue, the outreach team responds, visits the subject of the call, and then reports back to the caller with the results.
“There’s no quick fix to ending homelessness across America, but we can make a difference in our own community by working together,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who serves as president. of the First Step Shelter Board of Directors. “With the outreach and collaboration this project brings, I think the public will see what is possible for those who take advantage of all that First Step Shelter has to offer.”
In addition to shelter, First Step provides access to comprehensive health, addictions and counseling services as well as assistance in finding employment and housing. The goal of the program is to move residents out of homelessness into permanent housing.
First Step does not accept people who come to the shelter without a referral from a qualified agency or outreach team member.
You can reach Eileen at [email protected]