The Volusia County Council voted to demand the opening of Manatee Island in Daytona Beach Thursday. The Council said the island had been closed due to alleged restroom problems by the City of Daytona Beach, but should be opened as it was financed with county Community Redevelopment Agency dollars. Manatee Island is on Beach Street in downtown Daytona Beach, just across the street from the County Administration Center, where homeless people have been sheltering since last month. When this Examiner drove by the Center Friday afternoon, homeless people were camped along the Beach Street side of the building.
Several downtown business owners also complained to Daytona Beach City Commissioners Wednesday night that they were losing customers, due to complaints of being repeatedly asked for money by homeless people along Beach Street.
The County Council, in their discussion and vote Thursday, maintained that the City of Daytona Beach had closed the Island due to the restroom problems, but were also told that the island was “completely lit up like a stadium” at night. The County Manager was also asked, as part of the discussion of the matter, to send a county employee to Daytona Beach Thursday afternoon to inspect and document the conditions of the restrooms and confirm that the Island gate was closed. One Council member, Doug Daniels of District Four, voted against the action, saying he preferred to hear from the City of Daytona Beach first.
The Daytona Beach City Commission heard a report Wednesday night that the Salvation Army was making progress in helping refer homeless people along Beach Street to social service agencies. However, County Council members expressed concern at their meeting Thursday for the safety of their employees at the County Administration building. The Council, at their earlier January meeting, had also given the City of Daytona Beach 60 days to respond to their offer to provide construction money and land for the proposed Volusia Safe Harbor homeless shelter.
The County Council is also proposing to use land near the North Street area of Daytona Beach, to provide a short-term alternative to sheltering at the Administration Center on Beach Street. The Council heard a report Thursday advising that if they provided a large enough alternative shelter, they could trespass people at the Administration Building. However, in the meantime, the Council is waiting to see what results the City of Daytona Beach may have with the Salvation Army. One Council member expressed opposition to trespassing people at the Administration Building.
Council members also discussed proposals for using the former Daytona Beach Police Station on Nova Road as a homeless shelter, or turning over the county-owned EVAC building on Mason Avenue for a shelter. They also discussed using 15 percent of city’s Community Redevelopment Agency funds to pay for Volusia Safe Harbor. One Council member also said that a recent homeless forum in Daytona Beach had revealed how the “bickering of elected officials” was perceived as a major problem in dealing with the homeless issue, while another member said funding solutions were the main problem.
Council members were also told that the City of Daytona Beach should call a special meeting or a workshop with the county, to discuss the county’s offer of construction money and land for Volusia Safe Harbor. One council member said that if the City of Daytona Beach wants a contract with the county for Safe Harbor, then the county should draw up a contract committing four-million dollars for construction, and donating land west of Daytona Beach near the County Jail and Stewart-Marchman facilities, for the long-term shelter.
Click here to visit the Volusia County Council website.