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Survey Puts Homeless Total in Flagler-Palm Coast at 104, But Undercount Likely

| April 13, 2016

homeless flagler county census demographics 2016

Invisible Man. (Victoria Johnson)

The 2016 census of the homeless in Flagler County totaled 104 people in the annual so-called point-in-time count. Conducted in January and announced at a Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting this morning, the tally is a dramatic decline from last year’s 188. But the counting method is also highly questionable:  required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, it entails actual volunteers counting actual homeless individuals that they spot in a three-day survey. Numerous individuals inevitably go uncounted.

This year’s count, for example, spotted not a single homeless person in Flagler Beach, prompting a surprise reaction from Barbara Revels, the county commissioner who chairs the public safety council. “Nothing in Flagler Beach—I see them all the time,” Revels said. She lives and works in Flagler Beach, and takes daily walks along the beach, where she says she sees homeless individuals near the walkovers.

“Keep in mind when we did the point in time count, the weather was not our friend,” Victoria Searle of the Volusia-Flagler Coalition for the Homeless said. “The group that went to Flagler Beach, they could not find anybody. I got a phone call saying there was nobody there, and this was from an individual who worked with the homeless population every day.”

The last homeless man arrested in the county, last Friday, was, in fact, found by a Flagler Beach Police officer hiding under a walk-over in the 2200 block of South Ocean Shore Boulevard (A1A). The man, a 23 year old with a long arrest record locally, usually for disorderly intoxication, was charged with battery on his 67-year-old grandfather. He remains at the county jail without bond.

The count also breaks down the homeless between those who are sheltered—such as those in homeless or abuse shelters (though Flagler County has no homeless shelter as such), drug treatment programs and the like—and those unsheltered living in the streets or the woods. The total was nearly evenly divided between the two categories—56 sheltered and 48 unsheltered, with 27 sheltered individuals under 18. Only two individuals under 18 were found to be unsheltered.

But again, that’s is likely an undercount.

A quarter of the homeless self-report a form of mental illness.

“I’ll give you one that I got contacted about this week,” Revels said. “It’s a father raising six children by himself, and his daughter, senior at FPC I think, turned 18, and he said, you’re an adult, out, I can’t take care of you anymore. Kicked her out of the house. She was already lined up to go to Daytona State to finish her education. So everybody is trying to chip in and somebody from the school system took her home.”

The count found women to account for 45 of the homeless, and men for 59, most of them white, a third of them reported as first-time homeless.

The count found 37 homeless people in Palm Coast, all of them unsheltered. Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, who was at this morning’s council meeting, said the homeless tend to gather in the Hammock, where it’s wooded and where restaurants can be sources of rejected food. They gather around Florida Hospital Flagler, behind the surgery center, and around the library off Palm Coast Parkway.

The count found 63 homeless people in Bunnell, all but seven of them unsheltered, and just 4 homeless people in the Hammock.

One of the survey method was self-reporting, by homeless individuals themselves, of substance use, mental illness, chronic homelessness and physical disability. “They can either tell the truth, they can lie, or they can refuse to answer,” Searle said. Seven people reported chronic homelessness, 22 reported some form of substance use and 26 reported mental illness.

The numbers led into a brief discussion between Manfre and Revels on how to address the issue in the most pragmatic, immediate way.

flagler sheriff jim manfre

Flagler Sheriff Jim Manfre. (© FlaglerLive)

“The big issue for law enforcement is obviously we head to those calls, there’s only so much we can do,” Manfre said, “but certainly after hours when there’s no assistance, law enforcement becomes the default social services safety net. What we had in the past, we had a grant from the attorney general’s office where we had [cash] cards made up for food or for gas or for housing.” The cards afforded immediate emergency assistance such as a tankful of gas or a night in a motel. But that money dried up.

More recently, “One of my deputies took $100 out of his pocket and sheltered someone,” Manfre said. “Our offices have a lot on their plate, they’re not wealthy, and it just seems like if we had something like that in place again, it would first of all remove an issue from the community, relieving officers of having to come out of their pocket, because it breaks their hearts when they get a call to these kinds of situations and people are just down on their luck.”

“We need to look at it on a broader scope,” Revels said. The way to reduce homelessness is “rapid re-housing,” or getting the homeless into housing quickly. “One night at a hotel, maybe that’s all they need, but maybe not, and so we need to look at the other aspects of what rapid rehousing means, where can we get those funds.”

“There’s some of that, there’s some more economic, they’ve lost jobs or been displaced,” Manfre said, reflecting the numbers of the recent survey, “and then there’s the more, people with mental illness or alcohol issues. I’m just trying to chip away at one portion of it because the others are beyond it. There’s got to be some way where we can respond to people in a humane way.”

But for now there is no mechanism in place to make that happen. “I haven’t even started looking into that,” Revels said, suggesting, however, various ideas. “Flagler County’s got housing dollars, there’s foreclosure prevention money so that somebody can make a payment if they’re about to lose their home if they have the ability to continue, the coalition for the homeless if you talk to her, they’ve got some grant funding. There’s stuff out there.”

Manfre said the sheriff’s office could probably use money from its forfeiture funds. “We’re looking at the legality of that. I just have to make sure we’re able to utilize the funds that way,” he said.

As for an actual homeless shelter for the county, that idea was not even mentioned today.

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13 Responses for “Survey Puts Homeless Total in Flagler-Palm Coast at 104, But Undercount Likely”

  1. mom of a 14yr old says:

    Regarding the Homeless in Flagler County, I was approached by a young mother a month ago, she noticed I was a Realtor and asked me if I could help her find a place to live with her young children, she explained to me that she was distressed, abused by the father of the children and on public assistance. I told her to contact the government first, and if she didn’t get anywhere with that to send me her email and I would see what I could do to help. I’m now at a stand still. How do I help this family find a home? Shelter? etc.? Who do I turn to in order to help this woman and her children? She pleaded with me in tears that day, I held her in my arms and promised I would help! I wish I knew how!

  2. Geezer says:

    Looking at the picture above, I thought for a second that a young Harvey Keitel
    was among the ranks of the homeless in Flagler.

    Few people realize how easy it is to end up homeless in Flagler County.
    When you’re evicted forciblly–your possesions are put on the lawn (if it’s a house)
    for your neighbors and passerby to gawk at.

    If you have children, and face eviction–there’s a lifeline in place.
    You can contact Community Legal Services in Daytona, and Mid-Florida Housing,
    also in Daytona for more information.

    Don’t wait until the last minute to call.

  3. Geezer says:

    I just remembered something that made an impression on me some years ago.
    I was visiting a friend at the New Florida Memorial Hospital Medical Center (whew)
    in Daytona. I’d take US-1, turn right to Williamson Blvd, where there’s a Taco Bell
    immediately on the right, flanked by a Denny’s and a gas station.

    I decided to get a quesadilla and some tacos at that Taco Bell before arriving at the
    hospital. It was hard to not notice a “band” of homeless people congregating in the
    parking lot, where upon further inspection, I saw a man-made lake, surrounded by
    grass just beyond the parked cars where three people with backpacks were napping.
    I said to myself: “these poor people.” They looked so dirty and worn out.
    I knew that I’d want to buy some food for a couple of them, and did just that.

    A woman who was missing a few teeth, and her male companion, were the recipients
    of this token gesture on my part. They thanked me profusely, and I was genuinely moved.

    I wasn’t so moved by the Taco Bell manager, a well-nourished arrogant woman whom I
    asked about some sauce packets. I wanted the usual hot sauce for my Tacos.
    (the little packets with the clever phrases)

    “Ma’am, where do you keep the sauce packets?”
    “We keep them BEHIND the counter, because those pigs out there (pointing) take them
    and make soup wiff ’em.” [sic]
    I just stared at her for an uncomfortable minute, then she puts an assortment of packets
    on the counter before me–more than I could ever use.

    That corpulent, nasty woman left me positively speechless.

  4. John Walsh says:

    Mom of 14 Year Old, our community is served by United Way. United Way provides 2 1 1 service. Tell her to dial 211 from any phone. She will be connected to a referral service for all non life threatening emergency’s. 211 will provide referrals for over 250 community service agencies from diapers for infants, food for families and even utility and rent assistance.

    2 1 1

  5. RT says:

    What should be understood is that there is a difference between being homeless due to a set of circumstances beyond ones control and being homeless due to one adopting it as a way of life traveling from town to town setting up camp and panhandling at the I95 ramps or the Walmart entrance.
    If a homeless shelter is built here it would help few and would bring an unintentional downside. Look at Daytona Beach’s issues for example.

  6. Nomad says:

    Just wait till the “Great Great Depression” hits America. Oh yea, its coming and its going to HIT HARD. Save your quarters and dimes people because life is about to “kick you in the ass” !!

  7. Suzy says:

    If you think 104 is close to accurate, they obviously have not looked in the Mondex or Bunnell. I worked feeding the homeless on Sundays in Dayton, OH. It is sad. However, there are many who have chosen the path of homelessness because it’s a way of life for them and change is not part of the plan. Many are drug addicts and alcoholics with a very poor feeling of self worth. I still can’t imagine how many unaccounted, forgotten, homeless persons were lost on 9/11 beneath the World Trade Center. I remember some time ago that a Broward County School Board member disappeared. He had “gone off the deep end” and several years later was discovered in a homeless shelter in Cleveland, OH.

  8. woodchuck says:

    There is way more than that number.Some have circumstance beyond there control most don”t want to work and just sit around all day.I know I see them where I work.They are ther before I get there and they are there when I leave.Best way to chase them away is to hand them a job application they won”t be back.

  9. tom says:

    City Hall would be a perfest place to temporarily house them.

  10. David B says:

    I heard that the Schools consider a child homeless if they are living with a relative beside their parents. There was a an elderly woman who lived next door to us, who was raising her three grandchildren, and for some reason the children were considered homeless.

  11. Denise Calderwood says:

    To Mom of a 14 year Old ( a suggestion)

    If the young lady was abused by the father of her kids then she is eligible for services from The Family Life Center in Bunnell. They offer temporary and transitional housing for abused persons.

    There is also Family Renew in Holly Hill that serves Flagler residents. They are located on US1.

    The mother can also call Flagler Social Services and they may be able to provide some case manager services for this person and on their website at is a resource and referral list.

    On April 22, from 1-4:00pm at Cattleman’s Hall in Bunnell there is a social service fair where this young woman can speak to some of these providers in person. and several area churches have outreach programs, like St. Vincent de Paul and Santa maria Del Mar. And worse case scenario if none of these pan out she can feel free to call me at 386-225-3053 and I will see what else can be done to assist here. Homelessness and a lack of resources to truly help those who want to help themselves is nearly non-existent in Flagler County.

  12. Kathryn says:

    There should absolutely be a homeless shelter in Palm Coast. It’s ridiculous that we seem to have funds to build every building/expansion except a homeless shelter lately.

  13. Wings2C says:

    ABSOLUTELY @ Kathryn! Utilize what you have. Cut out these crazy high salaries in the government… All the way up to the Governor! Surely, there are social services, medical, security and/or clerical personnel that would volunteer. Is there a homeless program associated with public health here? There is a solution, if you want to find one. They say most of us are just one payday away from homelessness. And, I know. I am there.

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