Daytona Beach First Step Shelter Board discusses government funding
DAYTONA BEACH – One day, First Step Shelter may be able to raise enough private money to wean itself off government dollars.
But not yet. For now and for the foreseeable future, the city-owned, non-profit homeless shelter will continue to receive the vast majority of its funding from local governments.
In the current budget year, $ 975,754 of the annual budget of $ 1.39 million is covered by seven Volusia County governments. The balance comes from a range of private donations and grants.
How much each local government that uses the shelter should pay was an issue debated at the First Step Shelter board meeting last week. At the end of the discussion, the decision was to continue the current policy of asking each government to pay 0.258% of the fund balance it had five years ago, but to accept a lower amount if it is. whatever the government is willing to pay.
The funding formula comes from a proposal made before the shelter, located five miles west of Interstate 95, opened in December 2019. It was based on 0.258% of a government’s balance of funds for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Governments keep millions in these fund balances used for unforeseen costs such as hurricane-related repairs or emergency purchases. Daytona Beach had over $ 69 million in its fund balance five years ago, Volusia County had $ 165.6 million and even the smallest town of Daytona Beach Shores had $ 18.75 million while Ponce Inlet had almost $ 5.5 million.
Most of the governments that contributed to the safe house now have at least a few million dollars more in their fund balances.
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The fundraising policy has never been formalized by a board vote, but it has been the suggestion since the shelter opened over 18 months ago. Shelter CEO Victoria Fahlberg told board members that she does not have the power to unilaterally come up with a mandatory government contribution policy and that she wants to share something concrete with governments that plan to regularly send their homeless to the First Step shelter.
New Smyrna Beach is considering using the shelter and contributing, and this town has asked what it should pay. The current formula would charge $ 56,458 annually from New Smyrna Beach.
South Daytona has contributed in the past, but has not contributed this year as it awaits advice on a mandated amount. The formula says South Daytona is expected to pay $ 30,421 each year.
The shelter will not accept homeless people from a city that does not contribute. But the amount of the contribution has been nebulous, with some governments contributing more than 0.258% of the fund balance, and others less.
“This is the offer we made”
Port Orange would give just under $ 86,000 per year if it followed the formula, but chose to contribute $ 35,000 each year. Shelter board member Chase Tramont, a Port Orange town councilor running for a county council seat, argues that a government should have the freedom to pay what it sees fit.
Tramont was the only vote against continuing to make percentage of fund balance the standard funding request.
“We think we are at an appropriate pace,” Tramont said at the shelter’s board meeting last week.
He said members of Port Orange city council would not agree to pay more than double the amount they settled on, and he is unwilling to ask them to pay more than they currently are. .
“This is the offer we made, and this is what was accepted,” Tramont said.
He pointed out that Holly Hill, who currently pays $ 25,000 a year, could drop to $ 21,000 if she strictly followed the formula. Daytona Beach could pay $ 178,900 each year, which is less than half of the $ 400,000 Daytona pays each year.
Some governments paid exactly what was requested, including the $ 81,567 from Ormond Beach and the $ 14,187 from Ponce Inlet.
Volusia County pays $ 400,000 per year, slightly less than the $ 427,569 requested by the formula. Daytona Beach Shores paid $ 20,000 each year, which is less than half of the $ 48,413 suggested by the formula.
The County and City of Daytona Beach have each pledged $ 400,000 per year for the first five years of the shelter’s operation. Because the city started paying before the shelter opened to get it operational, the city took a year for payments of $ 400,000.
This will give the shelter three more years of that annual $ 800,000 Daytona Beach and County infusion. If these governments decide in three years not to continue paying at this level, the shelter will have to find more money from other local governments and raise more funds privately.
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“It’s the cost to do it”
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who is the chairman and chairman of the shelter board, said fear of demanding a specific amount from governments is that they could decide not to pay anything and not use the shelter.
Board member Rose Ann Tornatore suggested the board consider a rate below 0.258%.
“I’m afraid if it’s too high all the other cities will pull out and Daytona Beach will be the only one to do that,” Tornatore said.
Council member Joan Campanaro argued the council’s safe haven should stick to the 0.258% to ensure expenses are covered.
“I would say if you want to use our facilities, that’s the cost to do so,” Campanaro said. “If we lower (the rate), I think we’re going to have problems.”
Board member Bill Milano, Ponce Inlet City Council member, agreed.
“Our job is to make sure there is enough money to run the shelter,” said Milano. “We need help.”
Tramont said he agreed the board should make sure the shelter is funded, but he said he didn’t want to do it “on the backs of the taxpayers.”
Tramont said the goal of the shelter has always been to switch to private funding, so he doesn’t want to increase government support. But board member Fahlberg and Mike Panaggio said they were unsure whether private dollars could ever be a single, reliable source of funding.
“We are definitely working on fundraising”
Funds were raised privately, including $ 30,000 from a recent marathon walk. And there are regular private donors, like the $ 500 that comes each month from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Individual members of this church also send additional donations, and some church members volunteer at the shelter.
“We’re definitely working on fundraising. There’s no question about that,” Fahlberg said.
Board members supported Panaggio’s idea of creating a video that tells the story of the shelter and that can be used for fundraising. The board members have agreed to personally make a donation or raise the necessary funds for the video.
It would be difficult to raise $ 1.4 million in private funding each year, or more if the shelter is to expand the clientele it can serve. It could take a decade to establish regular private giving at this level, Fahlberg said.
“I don’t think we can ever do it without government money,” she said.
“It’s never going to go away. We will always need government money,” agreed Panaggio, founder and CEO of direct marketing company DME Holdings.
Tramont said governments will most likely always pay as they have to comply with laws that do not allow them to criminalize homelessness. Henry pointed out that a government’s ability to stay compliant by offering the Safe Haven Zone as a jail option is a value for cities that should be properly paid, even if a city does not refer many of its homeless people. in the shelter’s residency program. .
Henry suggested that governments could also help the shelter’s finances by making in-kind contributions. Daytona Beach already has its municipal attorney who guides the shelter board for free, and perhaps other cities could have their police officers monitor the shelter grounds once a month, he said.
The shelter spent approximately $ 100,000 per month and currently has approximately $ 571,000 in cash. More money will come from the City of Daytona Beach and County by the end of the fiscal year on September 30 as these governments make quarterly payments. Ormond Beach also makes quarterly payments.
The shelter is close to capacity for what current budget and staff will allow, with 45 people enrolled in and remaining in the shelter program, with a few more expected to come on board later this week. About seven people use the outer “safe zone” each day, a fenced-in pavilion just outside the shelter where homeless people can stay part of the day when they need a legal place.
First Step has helped 101 of its clients find housing, a task that is not easy with a population that has a high rate of past evictions, bad credit history, criminal records and limited funds. Fahlberg said June was a good month to move residents into rental units, with 10 moving into their own units.
So far, around 270 people have signed up for the accommodation program, some of whom left earlier or were asked to leave after breaking the rules. At least two people also died while residing at the shelter, one who suffered from advanced cancer and another who was run over by a pickup truck trying to cross US Highway 92 in front of the shelter to catch a bus.
More than 1,200 people have used the security zone, where homeless people can escape the elements to some extent and have a safe and legal place to spend a day or night.