Flagler County just built beautiful cottages in Princess Place. What about the homeless?
Being homeless in Flagler County is hard enough without having a target placed on your back, and now the secret is out.
Thirty-nine of them live behind the library and in several other wooded areas, and there are many more living in their cars, sleeping on couches, paying for hotel rooms and in spare bedrooms, paying $600 just for the room. Now that you know they are here, how are you going to help?
I have been there and done that, and I am still doing it — helping, that is. Together with some caring friends, we purchased a very old 15-passenger bus (since the county's policies make it almost impossible for homeless people to ride the county's buses) to transport the homeless so they can get showers, to do their laundry and to eat, and that is more than our county Social Services, our Transportation Division, our library, and our local government is doing — all combined. And I am being called names like an enabler and a trouble maker since I always try and tell their story to those who will listen.
The issue of homelessness is complex enough — just ask Sheriff Rick Staly who is still dealing with the FCSO Operations Center debacle — but then when you find yourself living in beautiful Flagler County it becomes a nightmare. We share our Social Services with Volusia County and several organizations bear our name, but where are they? And what have they been doing to help?
Yes, I know that the Volusia Flagler Homeless Coalition does outreach on occasion here, and they hold quarterly meetings here, but recently I had to drive a homeless person to their office in Daytona Beach for an hour and a half interview with the Flagler County outreach worker (how ironic that I had to take the person to Daytona) and after hearing her story and having her share painful information (that was entered into a computer database), no help was offered, and the outreach worker said, "I can't give you any help. Your county doesn't have any services or money available."
And when I asked when does he do outreach in Flagler and where does he go, he responded and said he went in the woods behind the library once and got bit by something and haven't been back.
And why isn’t this story being told? Even if it was, I don't believe right now that anything will happen because the issue of homelessness is very complex and different for each person, and our current county budget has no new dollars or initiatives in it.
However, our county staff just built three beautiful cottages at Princess Place that they will be renting out with an expected budgeted income of $250,000, so why can't this supposedly new income be used to help the homeless?
I've heard all the stories. I have taken the time to do the research and have offered several solutions to the decision makers, but no action has been taken, and this has been for the last three years. We have meetings and talk and talk, and we do the Point in Time Homeless Count, but where are the results?
The homeless are shouted at, food is thrown at them, and then those caring enough who give them money — even that is a problem. What we need is true affordable housing, and I am not advocating Section 8.
We need case management, action and accountability, and we don't need the city of Palm Coast saying it is the county's responsibility, because after all it’s our community's fault.
If you own rental housing, if you own a car, if you have medical insurance, if you have a job, if you have never been arrested or faced financial setbacks or have been evicted or have good credit — be grateful, because the things you take for granted someone else is praying for. And remember, character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you!
Denise Calderwood volunteers helping the homeless with Family Matters of Flagler, a community development corporation.