DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A new partnership between deputies and shelter workers in Volusia County is aiming to get more help to the homeless population.
The First Step shelter in Daytona Beach is now working directly with on-duty deputies who know their community and see people who are homeless while on the job. Another big part of the program is a new hotline for east Volusia County residents and business owners to call in if they see someone who needs help.
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With hundreds of people facing homelessness on the east side of the county, Deputy Samuel Andreesen and outreach worker Pamela Alexander started hitting the streets Monday, offering services to those who might not know they are available.
Body camera video showed their first interactions.
“I’ve got a social worker with the First Step shelter that’s offering programs and stuff. Do you guys want to talk to her?” asked Andreesen in one video.
The man responded: “I would like to, yeah! Yeah, I need help!”
The team looks for those who may be in need or responds to calls into the shelter’s new hotline.
“The programs offer you housing, free food, shower, job placement, the whole nine,” said Andreesen.
They invite the person to try First Step’s safe zone where shelter and food are available. Then, once in the program, the goal is to get them permanent housing and a job.
The team said there is some hesitation.
“It’s their life, it’s all that they know pretty much. So of course, it’s hard to get them to detach themselves from what they’re used to,” said Alexander.
The hesitation usually starts, they said, when the person sees law enforcement.
“I thought maybe I was in trouble when I saw you pull up and I thought man what the **** did I do,” asked one person in the video.
Andreesen responded: “No man, we’re trying to help people!”
Andreesen said he tries to explain right off the bat what they’re there for.
“It’s completely up to them. Even our conversations, I let them know that as soon as I make contact with them,” he said.
If the person isn’t ready the first time, the team will visit again.
“Just placing them so they can be more independent on their own with their own shelter over their head,” said Alexander.
If you do see someone who needs help on the east side of Volusia, you can call the hotline any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 386-999-HELP.
The shelter said eventually, they would like to get funding to make the hotline 24/7.