The Bunnell City Commission voted this evening to end the operations of the Sheltering Tree, the county’s only cold-weather homeless shelter, at a church in Bunnell. The church and Sheltering Tree organizers say they will pursue legal avenues.
The city that calls itself the crossroads of Flagler County is losing its bearings, its heart, and sometimes its mind–over the homeless, over panhandlers, over the sheriff’s office. It is becoming petty. It is becoming mean and resentful, and discriminatory.
The Flagler Beach City Commission this evening will discuss adopting an ordinance against “aggressive” panhandling at the urging of City Commissioner Eric Cooley, a business owner in town.
The Bunnell City Commission got a preview of the two sharply divided sides that will appear before it again soon in defense of and in opposition to the preservation of the cold-weather shelter for the homeless at First United Methodist Church on Pine Street.
Bunnell’s zoning board voted to disallow the Sheltering Tree, the county’s only cold-weather shelter, from operating out of the United Methodist Church, potentially ending 11 years of service by the non-profit. The Sheltering Tree intends to appeal to the city commission.
Flaglere County Fire Rescue’s Prather’s made nearly 500 house calls last year, serving a client base started with people who were frequent users of the 9-1-1 system for non-emergency medical needs and transportation to the hospital. Since its inception, these calls have decreased by 80 percent.
Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins is pressing the county administrator to develop an ordinance regulating homeless panhandling and tent-pitching with city managers, but none of the local governments other than Bunnell have discussed such policies.
More than half the homeless who lived near the library have scattered to other encampments while a few have found housing options with friends, family or through county and private help.
Denver’s ballot Initiative 300, a first-of-its-kind “Right to Survive,” would allow the homeless to camp anywhere on public lands without risk of arrest, If approved supporters aim to copy it elsewhere.
After years of idling lawmakers, the idea now has more traction in Congress thanks to the recently introduced Raise the Wage Act, which would set a national minimum pay of $15 an hour by 2024.