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Port Orange Observer Saturday, Jul. 15, 2017 3 years ago

Letters to the editor: ‘First Step’ is not a good solution for homelessness

Also in Letters: Readers give feedback on their new newspaper.

‘First Step’ is not a good solution for homelessness

Dear Editor,

Thousands of well intentioned but misinformed Christians in Volusia County are proponents of the First Step Shelter. They have been misled by leaders who claim the First Step Shelter is to help the homeless when in fact it is designed only to provide a place outside of downtown Daytona Beach to take them. It is for Pottinger Compliance (the ability to arrest for sleeping, etc.) so that enforcement can be increased. 

Many cities have taken this approach to homelessness. Unfortunately, enforcement is the least effective and most expensive option. It doesn’t help people nor solve the problem. It actually causes more homelessness.  

Why is this happening? Well, in Volusia County, a nonprofit criminal justice lobby group named Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony (FAITH) had pressured Daytona Beach and county leaders to build a jail diversion shelter that they claim will emplower the homeless, but I believe it’s strictly for criminal enforcement purposes. They are promoting spending millions of dollars to build a fabric structure across the street from the Volusia County jail. This is modeled after another jail shelter called Pinellas Safe Harbor in St. Petersburg, the brainchild of the same consultant, Dr. Robert Marbut. A complete failure for homeless citizens by any standard. 

Despite this, criminal justice groups — and, in Daytona, FAITH — promote him. They advocate and lobby for criminal justice-based solutions. They are a product of DART (Direct Action and Research Training Center), a national network of 22 affiliated grassroots, nonprofit, congregation-based community organizations. They are not a Christian or faith-based organization.  

This non-social-service organization rallied 32 churches and pastors to support what is essentially a punitive shelter, telling them it is for the homeless, when in fact it is a warehouse for criminalization. Poor church members who rallied to help poor people are truly participating in creating a cheap alternative to jail that doesn’t help anyone. It just lets us punish them cheaper. 

The shelter they are building is against all best practices and guidance from the federal authority (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness) and our state authority (Florida Governors Council on Homelessness). It is not supported by the Volusia/Flagler Commission on Homelessness or the local Continuum of Care. The city of Daytona has received unprecedented letters of opinion from the National Coalition for the Homeless and national expert Iain DeJong of Orgcode stating this model does not follow best practices. 

Citizens need to know the truth. Educate yourself on what is best for the community. Educate your church family. This facility is not a homeless shelter. We need to understand it is for hiding the homeless, not helping them. We still need help for our homeless! 

Do not believe First Step is the answer. It is actually the problem.  

Thomas F. Rebman

Port Orange


A part of the community

Dear Editor,

Thank you so much for this wonderful newspaper! I love the Port Orange Observer! I totally agree with what you said about feeling like you’re part of a community when you know more about it. I’m not a fan of the News-Journal so I get the Orlando Sentinel on Sundays, and I always feel so left out reading about the events in Orange or Seminole counties. I love what you covered in your paper, truly appreciate the articles on Riverwalk, Rep. Tom Leek, the school grades, the softball team (had friends involved and didn’t even know it!), and even the Youth Civic Leadership Experience! It was all great! Thank you so much for your time, energy and dedication! You and your team have done a wonderful job and should be extremely proud!

Thank you again!

Katharine Gambino

Port Orange 


Breaking into the business 

Dear Editor,

Hello! I am a resident of Waters Edge. I received your paper last week and thoroughly enjoyed reading it—I even worked the whole crossword puzzle on the first try.

Thank you for breaking into this difficult business. I wish you the best, and will try to patronize your advertisers and mention your paper when I do.

I am retired and do not subscribe to mainstream papers because of their horrible lack of journalistic detachment. Too many of them have gone from reporting news to becoming political screed of the editorial boards. 

Keep up the good work!

Linda Jacobs

Port Orange


Send letters to [email protected]. Include first and last name, as well as city of residence. Editor may alter the letter for clarity and/or length.


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