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DeLand crafts solution for homeless

Man with a plan — DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus stands at 224 S. Florida Ave., where the city intends to build a 20-bed shelter and a day center where people without homes can get meals, showers, and access to case managers who can help them find services and permanent shelter.

Man with a plan — DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus stands at 224 S. Florida Ave., where the city intends to build a 20-bed shelter and a day center where people without homes can get meals, showers, and access to case managers who can help them find services and permanent shelter.

BEACON PHOTO/BARB SHEPHERD

Can Deltona help? — Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk addresses a small group assembled to listen to DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus and DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar describe DeLand’s proposal to help West Volusians who don’t have homes. Deltona officials will consider helping to fund the project when they put together the city’s budget this summer. Seated are Deltona City Attorney Becky Vose and City Manager Jane Shang.

Can Deltona help? — Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk addresses a small group assembled to listen to DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus and DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar describe DeLand’s proposal to help West Volusians who don’t have homes. Deltona officials will consider helping to fund the project when they put together the city’s budget this summer. Seated are Deltona City Attorney Becky Vose and City Manager Jane Shang.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Making their pitch — DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus, left, and DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar appeal to City of DeBary officials for help in covering the operating costs of a services center for homeless people, to be built near Downtown DeLand. Construction of the center, which will be operated by The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, will be paid for by Volusia County — if DeLand can assemble enough contributors to cover the estimated $315,000-a-year operating costs.

Making their pitch — DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus, left, and DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar appeal to City of DeBary officials for help in covering the operating costs of a services center for homeless people, to be built near Downtown DeLand. Construction of the center, which will be operated by The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, will be paid for by Volusia County — if DeLand can assemble enough contributors to cover the estimated $315,000-a-year operating costs.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Weary of waiting for countywide answers after more than two years of debate, the City of DeLand has proposed its own solution to the problem of homelessness.

Making it happen, however, depends on getting enough West Volusia churches, businesses, individuals and organizations to pledge financial support.

The “West Volusia Solution” is a 20-bed, 5,000-square-foot shelter and day center to be built on the site of a former dry-cleaning business at 224 S. Florida Ave.

The facility’s mission will be to serve the estimated 127 people across West Volusia who don’t have homes, connecting them with social services and getting them into shelter. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served at the day center, and showers and laundry facilities will be available.

In 2015, the City of DeLand took ownership of the .85-acre South Florida Avenue property in a foreclosure related to unpaid code-enforcement fines. The city is working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to clean up underground pollution at the site that apparently stemmed from decades of dry cleaning.

DeLand city government doesn’t intend to operate the center, but will contract with The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, which is about three blocks away on South Woodland Boulevard.

The West Volusia Solution cleared a major hurdle Jan. 19, when the Volusia County Council voted unanimously to pay the $1.13 million cost of building and furnishing the South Florida Avenue center, so long as DeLand can cover the operating costs for five years.

City Manager Michael Pleus and Mayor Bob Apgar have been busy trying to get commitments to cover those operating costs, expected to run $315,000 a year.

As of Feb. 1, the duo had $21,700 a year in commitments after meetings with 14 churches. Another $29,500 could be added if proposed annual donations are approved by church boards and memberships over the next few months.

In addition to that private money, the DeLand City Commission voted to budget $50,000 a year for the homeless solution, and the Lake Helen City Commission agreed to chip in another $1,500 annually.

Deltona and DeBary both indicated they may help, with details to follow after city officials begin work on their 2017-18 budgets this summer. Orange City will also be approached.

The MainStreet DeLand Association has committed to stage one event a year as a fundraiser for the West Volusia Solution.

Pleus said it’s his goal to get commitments for more money than is needed, in case some of the pledges fall through.

In addition to giving presentations to cities and churches, he has been meeting with agencies that provide drug-abuse treatment and mental-health services, including The House Next Door and Stewart-Marchman-Act, to make them aware of the proposal and how they can be involved.

Pleus is hopeful the city might be able to break ground on the homeless facility in late 2017 or early next year. He said once the FDEP decides on a method to clean up the pollution at the site, it should take just a few months to get the job done.

The 20 shelter beds at the South Florida Avenue site will bring to 50 the number of emergency-shelter beds in West Volusia — all of them in DeLand. The Neighborhood Center already has 10 beds and will add 20 more when its thrift shop moves into a new building on South Woodland Boulevard.

Forty to 50 beds in West Volusia were the recommendation of a trio of experts DeLand worked with to craft its solution: Ray Salazar, former CEO of the United Way; Chet Bell, former CEO of Stewart Marchman ACT; and Randy Croy, former CEO of Serenity House.

Another part of their recommendation was the day center, where homeless people can connect with case managers.

“With the day center, we will have the resources to help and connect them with the wide array of services available to them,” Pleus said.

Tapping grant funds, rental-assistance programs and other means of help, the goal would be to find permanent housing within 90 days for individuals who visit the South Florida Avenue facility.

When Pleus and Apgar give their presentations to potential donors, they wrap up with seven key points about the West Volusia Solution: It uses a proven model, it provides key components experts agree are needed, it relies on the recommendations of experts, and the expertise of The Neighborhood Center, it’s financially feasible and cost-effective, and it’s sized to serve all of West Volusia.

The final point, according to Pleus: “It is the right thing to do.”

- Barb Shepherd, info@beacononlinenews.com

Want to help?

If you or an organization you’re affiliated with wants to help with the West Volusia Homeless Solution, or hear a presentation about it, contact the office of DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus at 386-626-7107 or email pleusm@deland.org

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