Daytona’s Safe Zone: A Small Space That Will Make a Big Difference

July 28, 2020

 

Paul Culver Construction’s work on the Safe Zone at Daytona’s First Step Shelter is “moving quickly” and “going well,” according to Dr. Victoria Fahlberg, Executive Director at the shelter. The intake office, although only about halfway done, stands between the main shelter building and the parking lot.  It represents a brighter future for countless people, as well as an ethical solution to the criminalization of homelessness and the enormous tax burden that “quality of life” arrests bring to communities nation-wide. 

The function of the Safe Zone is to give homeless people a comfortable, temporary space to be when law enforcement might have otherwise arrested them for trespassing. The location of the Safe Zone gives these people access to the intake process at the First Step Shelter, and the hope is that many of the individuals will enroll in the program, facilitating the process of moving back toward a better, more productive and stable life. Although it is too soon to know exactly how many people will benefit from the program and how much money the Safe Zone will save the local economy, Dr. Fahlberg is confident that it will help many people and the county in many ways.

In the 1980s there was a rise in both violent crime and homelessness, and many people were led to believe the two were related. More recently though, homelessness has continued to increase while serious offenses have declined, resulting in lower levels of support for using the criminal justice system to address homelessness. Other questions, like the cost to law enforcement for enforcing quality of life offenses such as sleeping in public, have come up with shocking results. A study out of Seattle, Washington, a city with a large homeless population, showed that an estimated 5-year minimum of $2,300,000 was directly attributed to enforcing just 16% of the city’s quality of life criminalization ordinances.   Investing that money in housing the homeless could have saved taxpayers over $2 million annually and over $11 million total over five years.

According to Dr. Fahlberg, “The safe zone provides a place for law enforcement to bring homeless people who are engaged in minor violations, such as trespassing, in lieu of arresting them.  It is a safe alternative for the homeless, keeps them out of the judicial system, and gives them a safe place to rest/sleep”.  In addition to that, “It will also give them an opportunity to see the shelter (from the outside) and think about opting for the shelter program.”

There are many homelessness-related controversies, and the majority are directly a result of people sleeping in public places. In some cities, communities have seen homeless encampments grow to hundreds of inhabitants. As a result, encampments create a public health risk and make public spaces feel unaccommodating. Cities face significant pressure to address them, which often results in arrests. This process adds a heavy burden to law enforcement agencies by pulling the attention of officers away from more serious crimes. In addition to occupying valuable time, this process endlessly funnels money into the criminal justice system for processing, housing, and holding hearings for people who have done nothing more than sleep or simply “be” where they must, as a result of having nowhere else to go.

Paul Culver Construction is proud to be a part of this great project, having  secured the contract through our willingness to do this at cost, with no personal profit other than the knowledge of the great impact this will have on countless citizens in Volusia County.

Want more information about First Step Shelter and The Safe Zone? Visit their website at https://firststepshelter.org/.

 

 

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