DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - To many homeless individuals in Daytona, the blanket-lined sidewalk along North Street is home.
LaLonnie Monzingo has spent most of her life there, eating food provided by the Second Harvest Food Bank and sleeping on the ground in front of the Salvation Army offices. She even said that she gave birth to her son near a fence there about 30 years ago.
The Volusia County Council will hear a presentation on Thursday that looks to help people like Monzingo and her son, Bernard Smith III, out. The presentation will propose a shelter that could be a way out for homeless people. It would be located 10 miles west, along U.S. 92, near the Volusia Branch Jail.
This change in location would force many to leave familiar surroundings. And that is a change that some are not willing to make.
James Douglas, a Boston native who has been homeless in Daytona for three months, says "Don't stick it way out there." He believes that there are others places it could go, pointing to abandoned buildings and vacant land that he passes daily on U.S. 1 and Beach Street. He went on to explain that the shelter needs to be "where it's most capable of doing the most good."
Yet, for others, a shelter anywhere is good enough. James Prater moved to Daytona Beach last week from St. Augustine and says that he is "looking for new opportunities as he tries to stretch his $700-a-month disability checks as far as possible." When asked if he'd go to a shelter 10 miles away, he did not even hesitate to say yes. "Anybody who is homeless will take any kind of shelter."
The intention of moving the shelter so far is to get people out of drug-ridden, crime-stricken areas so that they can improve their situations, explains Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
The restaurants and retailers of U.S. 1 and Beach Street have had to deal with homeless people stealing fries from customers, asking for money, and sleeping near doorstops for too long. Placing the shelter on U.S. 92, west of Interstate 95, will help alleviate some of these issues.
"North Street is noted as an area that often times feeds the issues that are associated with homelessness," Mayor Henry said. "We don't think that's the proper environment for a shelter. Nor is it in the best interest of the immediate area. The businesses in that area have suffered for a very long time with the homeless."
Even the Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley said that the location should not matter to people who truly want help. He said he would be more concerned if the shelter was near a residential neighborhood or too close to a business.
"When should we let homeless people looking for help dictate where they have shelters?" he said. "We want to do more than just provide a place for them to live and those who say they don't want to go only want to walk the streets and hang out at the park. I believe there are enough that want to get the help."
it is not clear what transportation will be available for downtown homeless people to get to the shelter.
The shelter would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provide more than just beds. For example, those that show up drunk or under the influence of drugs will be placed in an area dedicated to helping people dry out, officials said.
In addition, full-time case managers would be on site everyday to help triage the needs of new residents and connect them with services. That could include getting help with mental health problems and addictions at social-services provider Stewart-Marchman-Act.
Many see the proposal as promising.
Doyle Lewis, who has been homeless since 2010, says that "it's needed. If you make a facility that is safe, they will go." He went on to say that "I guarantee it will be used. You just have to have transportation."
Kristal Spry agrees, saying that she believes it is hard for people to break the cycle when they go to North Street, where drug use and illegal activity is rampant. "You have to teach people. You can't just hand somebody something," she said.
However, many homeless people are still not on board.
Earl Irving says that it's easier to find odd jobs such as mowing lawns or other yard work in the more populous areas of Daytona Beach. He is afraid that those same opportunities won't be available on the city's western rim.
James Douglas, the man who supports placing a shelter closer to downtown, adds onto his argument from before by saying that building a shelter way out there will not work. "You're going to have a mass exodus of people trying to leave (the shelter) every morning trying to get back here because they work or are trying to work."
Douglas thinks a meeting with city leaders would help him understand the project. He invited the mayor to come to North Street and answer some questions.