Since 2012, homelessness in the county was reported to have dropped by 70%.
Volusia County organizations are zeroing in on providing additional housing and resources for the community's homeless to help those individuals find a place to stay and assist them with moving into a permanent home. Even with the Volusia/Flagler Coalition for the Homeless report of a drop of 70% in homelessness within the county since 2012, organization leaders are continuing to look for ways to help this group transition into a more stable setting while having access to the resources they need.
The issue of housing was brought up during a Wednesday, July 11 One Voice for Volusia coalition meeting where Buck James, Halifax Urban Ministries executive director, and Jeff White, executive director of the Volusia/Flagler Coalition for the Homeless, spoke about trends in local homelessness and what their organizations are doing to combat this issue.
According to White, in 2012 there were 2,384 homeless individuals who were counted on the streets within the county. Between Jan. 23, 2017 and Jan. 24, 2018, 643 homeless individuals were put into housing by agencies that receive funding that the Coalition for Homeless has in place.
James said that HUM's two main goals have been feeding and housing people, adding that the organization sees reducing food bills as the first line of defense in preventing homelessness. He said that food bill reduction improves the chance of individuals and families having extra funds to use elsewhere, such as for paying rent or electric bills.
However, both James and White emphasized the need for providing housing in a timely manner in order for those people to move forward.
"Research shows that the quicker we can get them into affordable housing and then apply those wraparound services to help give them the skill set to be able to be self-sufficient, the better the outcome will be," James said.
White said that getting homeless individuals off the street and into housing with those wraparound services, which could include mental and medical assistance, can also save the community money as well.
"We know that the people that are most vulnerable are people that cost the community the most money," White said. "They're the people that are going to the emergency room, they're getting arrested, they're going to the crisis units."
James said part of the solution is to work on the consistency of funding to increase shelter facilities while also working on a corresponding increase in the flow of emergency and transitioning shelters. White said what organizations don't want to do is stockpile homeless individuals and families in shelters for an extended period of time. He said that doing so only increases the length of time those people spend being homeless, making it harder for them to be successful when they do get into housing.
According to James, part of the answer lies in increasing the effectiveness of case management services to link homeless individuals with the resources they need.
White added that there needs to be a flow through the various funding sources and emergency shelters so that they can open up those sources and emergency shelter beds for other homeless individuals soon afterward.
"We know that the longer a person is on the street, the harder it is for them to get out and be successful once they do get into housing," White said, adding that "the longer you're out there, the more things that are happening, the harder it is once you get into housing to maintain that housing."