2 churches to help Volusia County shelter survivors of Hurricane Ian

Current shelter site is set to close soon

Two churches will take over sheltering Hurricane Ian survivors, but those who live and work beachside are finding the options unhelpful.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – People living at a Volusia County emergency shelter are expressing mixed emotions after finding out the shelter is shutting down.

Crystal Dowdell says she is set after FEMA provided a voucher for a hotel for the next 30 days. It’s her next step on the road to recovery, two weeks after Hurricane Ian rendered her homeless.

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“Once they told me I had the voucher for the hotel, it relaxed me a whole lot, they are trying to help us as best as possible, I can say that,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell is currently staying at the emergency shelter located at Daytona Beach’s Ocean Center, but the shelter is also in the process of closing.

The Ocean Center Shelter in Daytona Beach, the last one in Daytona Beach after Hurricane Ian, closed on Oct. 17.

Two churches, First Baptist Church in Osteen and Kepler Road Baptist Church in DeLand, are going to provide transitional shelters for people who can’t return to their homes or are waiting for FEMA assistance.

Biketoberfest delayed transitioning to hotels for people like Dowdell because many were at capacity.

“They said they’re still full with bikers, so if I can’t get into today, they can guarantee a place in the morning,” Dowdell said.

For others, the future remains unclear, as they express the fear of the unknown after the shelter closes.

“We didn’t ask for this. This was something that came at us, we had no control over it,” said Roger Clark who sat next to his two friends Cynthia Hannah and Michelle Thompson.

All three were expressing frustrations with FEMA’s approval process, saying they can’t wait to see if they have been approved or denied, noting right now they have nothing to lean on.

“I lost everything, I have nothing left, can’t go back to anything,” Thompson said.

Hannah also lost everything due to flood waters after Hurricane Ian. She added, “My car was flooded, all my clothes, everything is gone, I have nothing left.”

Yet, in times of confusion comes a sense of community as people look to get results together.

“All of us are on a fixed income, but all four of us have come together and we are willing to pool our money to get in someplace,” Clark said.

Dowdell is also chipping in to others she met at the shelter.

“I actually took in a couple because I am allowed up to 4 people in my hotel,” Dowdell said.

Others were frustrated by the distance of the new shelters. Many of those who were staying in the Ocean Center that News 6 talked to lived and worked on the east side of the county before the storm hit.

“It’s hard for me as a single mom, to worry about my job and then worry about shelter because I didn’t even find out about this place until this morning,” said Mary Johnson from New Smyrna Beach.

Buses lined up Monday morning to take some of the hurricane victims to one of the new shelters, but many said they lost cars and didn’t have a way to get back beachside.

“As far as people who have jobs here and work here they aren’t willing to transport you to your job,” Jennifer Parker said.

Parker and her partner, Eugene Allgood, were still waiting for FEMA’s approval and said they had to make a tough choice. Without a car, they said they could either go to the new shelter or give up a job.

“I’ve got no money to get into a hotel. I will maybe have money to get into a hotel tomorrow, I’m supposed to go back to work tomorrow,” Parker said.

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About the Authors:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.