The homeless can seem a world apart from those who have a roof over their head. But the same could be said on Tuesday about members of a task force exploring ways to address Palm Coast and Flagler County’s homelessness issue, and residents demanding that the city do something about the problem.
The task force met for two and a half hours Tuesday afternoon, its meeting finally ending half an hour before the council meeting began. The gap between the two worlds became more surreal when one of the task force’s members, who is a council member–Jack Howell–and who attended both meetings, attacked members of task force without reserve: “I was not overly impressed with what I saw today at this meeting, and I’m going to take charge, and it needs to be done my way because they’re spinning it around and they’re not doing what has to be done.”
Howell had not actually attended the whole task force meeting, and what portions of the meeting he had attended was largely as part of one of two break-out group, so he never heard what the other group concluded–nor even his own, as his group agreed to some goals after he’d left. Neither groups’ accomplishments were close to providing a solution to the problem, but all task force members, including Howell at both meetings, agreed on one thing. In Howells’s own words, “This is not a snap-your-finger, they’re all gone scenario.”
So Howell, whom the Palm Coast City Council appointed as a liaison to the county task force and who could in that role have bridged some of the gap between expectations and reality, ended up feeding into false expectations as much as he made promises that he would get something done, without saying what: he had himself made no proposal at the task force meeting, other than to caution against a public “broad-brushing” the problem and asking media to educate residents about the problem.
Nor did he make any proposals, temper inaccuracies or ease concerns after several people spoke to the council at the beginning of its meeting.
Four people spoke to the council of their concerns about the homeless near the library. “We just want to know what’s going to be done about it,” one resident asked. “I don’t feel safe anymore,” a B-Section resident who bought her first home there a few years ago, but who’s lived in the city 25 years and previously always felt safe walking to the store.
“For years it wasn’t a problem with the home-deprived, I guess you could call them,” she continued, “but I feel like there’s been a few bad apples that have gotten mixed in with the group, and there’s been thefts and robberies, some of them are inconclusive as to who is to fault for that, but we all have our little inkling of what it is.” She said she doesn’t feel safe in her own home.
A third resident put it more graphically, if inaccurately, as she spoke of homelessness as “an epidemic” and claimed the homeless are “smoking, drinking, doing drugs, stealing, threatening people, defecating on our city, urinating in the library–the list goes on.” (The statement is strictly accurate, but perhaps with one exception could be attributed in much larger proportions to non-homeless people.) She questioned the city’s concern. “Do you think it’s impacting our property values?” she asked. “What is going to be done to preserve what thousands of taxpayers love and call home?”
In fact, property values are rising for properties immediately north of the library and county acreage where the homeless camp spread out, and from where those properties have somewhat of a wooded view of the homeless camp: the property value at 19 Braddock Lane rose 4 percent this year, according to the Flagler County Property Appraiser’s current estimate. At 21 and 25 Braddock Lane: Up 4.5 percent, at 31 Braddock, up 10 percent. The property at 27 Braddock saw its value drop 6 percent, but that appears to be a readjustment from an 8 percent spike last year, leaving the property still with a net gain since 2017. There are no properties to the west: it’s a city utility plant.
Only the fourth resident to address the council on the issue spoke of the homeless with some perspective: “They’re not all criminals, they don’t all make a mess, they are human beings, some are better people or better citizens than others, but they are citizens nonetheless., they need our help, we have to do what we can, just as we would do for any other citizen.” He said the community needs to deal with the homeless and their rights “as humanely as we can, without demonizing people who are far less fortunate than we are.”
Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland said the city can’t itself go into the library property, since it’s county land (though the county spent the second half of March cleaning up the grounds, and according to county officials, reducing the homeless population there possibly by half.) “You can;t take one issue and move it to another part of the county and think that’s acceptable,” Holland said. “This needs to be addressed on a countywide level where there isn’t jurisdictional boundaries that are associated with it, but actually finding solutions that would make sense to address the issue comprehensively. And that’s what we’re doing.”
She said the county’s Public Safety Coordinating Council can move the issue to a more concrete place (though in fact the council is deferring to the homeless task force to produce recommendations). “It is why we actually suggested appointing someone from our council that could advance this discussion from our perspective,” she said of Howell.
That’s when Howell spoke of his attendance at the task force meeting, promising to take charge–and not just there. He spoke of concerns that private property owners are letting homeless people trespass. “We have to get a hold of the property owner and we have to see if they will put a no-trespass sign on their property,” he said, “which the sheriff’s department has had trouble trying to get the enactment from the owner. I have ways. We’re going to get that done.” He did not say what those “ways” are, though his ominous threat elicited murmurs from the audience. He then returned to the task force: “I’ve established that I want this task force coalition to come up with, and I’ll probably be bringing most of them, goals, to have goals, and then I’m going to assign tasks. I already assigned myself to helping write grants.”
Had Howell stayed at the task force meeting or gotten briefed by Carrie Baird, the executive director of FlaglerCares who runs it (FlaglerCares is a coalition of healthcare, social service and government agencies focused on health and affordable housing matters), he’d have heard more about goals that were agreed upon.
The task force broke out in two groups, one focused on homelessness, the other on affordable housing (or “attainable housing,” as Baird prefers to call it), because its members believe one problem can’t be addressed without addressing the other. The homelessness group resolved to start monthly outreach events at the Flagler County Public Library that would draw from numerous social service and government agencies that currently provide services to the poor or the homeless, but aren’t always known or accessible. The monthly events would be an extension of what the county already does quarterly at the fairgrounds–Access Flagler–but would be more targeted to the homeless. Holly Albanese, the library director, said the library would be a natural place for it because of the nearby camp and the focus it’s brought to homeless matters.
“The public needs to see something happening,” Albanese said. It won’t pluck the homeless away from the grounds, but it can accelerate the sort of connections with service agencies that over time, led to those homeless individuals who do want help to be placed in homes or care facilities. Albanese is also looking to hold a town hall on homelessness.
On the affordable housing side, the goals have more to do with long-term strategies than immediate tactics: community education that breaks down resistance to apartment complexes and shows that there’s no such thing as a linkage between apartment buildings and higher crime rates; increasing connections between non-profits and landlords, giving landlords an extra level of comfort when renting to lower-income residents: if leases go awry, the non-profit is the landlord’s buffer, holding the landlord harmless; identifying land that can be converted to affordable housing, subsidized by grants, and encouraging local governments to be more developer friendly to attract affordable housing projects.
Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler Health Department, also convinced the group to prepare what he called a white paper on housing and homeless issues in Flagler so that misconceptions (presumably like those spoken at the council meeting Tuesday evening) are more effectively addressed, and so that local advocates who will be campaigning for more affordable housing and a resolution to the homeless issue can all speak from the same script.
One of the goals the task force discussed echoed some of that was discussed at the Public Safety Coordinating Council last month: coordination between agencies that could determine how best to address an individual’s needs, a goal that could in part be met through the monthly library events, though county officials also provide some of that coordination already.
At that Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting, Commissioner Joe Mullins made a push for ordinances that give law enforcement a stronger tool to tackle homelessness, and finding agencies or places where the homeless could be relocated. Neither of those goals were discussed at the task force: there’s little appetite for harsher ordinances on local government boards at the moment, and Sheriff Rick Staly is uninterested in turning the jail into a homeless shelter. And county and social service agencies stress that finding a place for a homeless individual is never as simple as providing it: the individual must be coaxed and convinced that that’s what he or she wants to do. Sometimes it works. Often, it doesn’t.
Concerned Citizen says
I originally liked Councilman Howell but am now having my doubts.
While I respect his service ( I did 4 years in the Airforce myself) and another 10 in the Guard) he needs to realize this isn’t the Marine Corps. And he is a retired Col which means he isn’t dumb and has to know how to manage people. Barking orders and being disrespectful to fellow council members isn’t the way to represent Palm Coast.
I sympathize with the homeless to a certain point but the fact remains they are breaking the law. If you or I sat on County/City land we would be told to leave or go to jail. Clear out that camp rope it off and put signage up. Have law enforcement do their jobs because they are trespassing. And what about public drug use? Why isn’t that being enforced?
There is so much money being wasted in this county right now it’s ridiculous. From Captains BBQ to Art Parks and Splash pads it’s no wonder we can’t build shelters and fund programs to mitigate homelessness. Instead of donations for 10 foot tall donkeys why aren’t we putting up donations for shelters and programs?
I have done my part as have others to help the homeless when possible. I live paycheck to paycheck and am not rich by any means. Our county and city can garner resources and ask for state help but it refuses to do so. Why? You knew long ago this was a crisis.
I have said it before on other threads. We have elections coming up before to long. Please remember those that can’t do their job and get them out.
As the crows come home to roost only yourselves to blame for letting it go on this long. Since when cant the County throw people off public land. I dont get it. Gl and good riddance to PC cya
SO Mr Howell, do you think that the members of the task force were mind readers or what? If you are going to do it “your way” then why in the hell did you waste the time and money having a task force. What a bunch of bullshit!
Put them on the sheriffs farm,make the ones that are able to work on the farm
No drugs or booze
No work no eat
Old Guy says
Republicans spend money too. They just feel guilty about it later.
denise Calderwood says
My Way or the highway, Col I love your analogy and Mayor Holland your quote of “you cant take one issue and move it to another part of the county” is amazing considering your saying that on the homeless issue and not saying it about the Sheriff’s Office Administration Building and moving it to Palm Coast, the Sheriff knows all too well how difficult the homeless issue is since he has to find a new solution for his administrative staff, maybe we can move them to Volusia County, like the suggestion was made of the homeless!
Please both of you need to remember that homelessness and affordable housing are economic issues and just like everything else revolves around money! And people get depressed if they don’t have money which leads to more social issues….so that is why Flagler has the highest suicide rate in the state!
So instead of control how about putting your money where your mouth is….. Volusia County is spending over 12 million dollars on solving their homeless issue, and the cities are contributing additional revenue and we are too busy spending $5.6 million on Holland Park additions after spending 5 million plus cost overruns for the previous additions on one park named in honor of the mayor’s father!
And that doesn’t even consider the golf course, the private tennis court, the subsidized rowing club, the soccer parks where the lights are always on, the bike path, and the arts or the additional cost of renting our own community center back, well you get the idea…. it is not being spent on seniors or the homeless.
Jim Holland would be having great arguments right now if he were alive and would probably be embarrassed that this park bears his name since he was the most fiscally conservative person I knew, however he fully supported social and senior services! And for history buffs, the mayors father when he was still a citizen only, chaired a Blue Ribbon commission that made recommendations on spending our tax dollars on a dedicated senior center and for an effective fixed route transportation service-which we still have neither! So Mayor why can’t you be more like your father…… and make rational decisions.
How much has the city contributed to the homeless cause… nothing that I know of so please put your money where your mouth is and remember that the homeless issue is everyone’s problem and also remember that if we all work together we can solve the issue as long as everyone does their job!
And I support taking back the library and I am not an enabler! I am a doer along with all of the other people who have donated their time and extra dollars to coming up with solutions to provide the homeless with a hand up and not a hand out. Our organization purchased a bus and we are providing a fixed route transportation system that serves the homeless and senior citizens so that they can use it to get to work…..or to partake in social activities to prevent senior isolation.
Just this week alone, I found temporary jobs for five of the homeless, who live beside the library and one of the jobs will lead to full time employment. In addition, we have met with each person and developed individual action plans to get them on the start of new direction so they will not be on the streets of Palm Coast panhandling. Our real problem is affordable housing for seniors, the disabled and the homeless. ,
So these are the steps that can be done when one cares enough or is educated about the issue so I am left scratching my head and wondering, what could be achieved if we had some money going toward the cause !
Sorry Jack, YOU are NOT the end at beat all. And YOU are not the last word on ANYTHING. You have overstepped your ELECTED limits. Perhaps it is time for a special election. I don’t care if you are R or D, When I hear, it must be done MY way, I have many reservations. And for the record, I do NOT think homeless people should be able to act the way they are conducting themselves. Being homeless does O make one an animal, but ACTING like an animal, well that is a different story. After all if I started doing my “morning constitution” on my front lawn, I reckon the FCSO would be there the very first day.
Councilman Howell is correct when he said that the Task Force (that by the way, he didn’t create) goes around and around.in this meetings without coming up with solutions! I am wondering some in the Homeless Coalition and Task Force are in our government payroll list, because if so, is just wasted money. Use instead those funds to really resolve the problem and do not blame our good councilman for the Bull Shit he didn’t create but is trying to resolve. All the monies wasted as mentioned above by Concerned Citizen when it comes to Cptn Bbq, Splash Parks, $440,000 impact fees exceptions to the rich Coconut Grove Developer to build apartments in the mayors Innovation Town Center. CRA. or to the millions wasted by Coffey and FCBOCC on a contaminated hospital but not one cent for the homeless solutions that ultimately affect us all. Even the outsourcing by Mayor, Flukas and Branquinho of an Oregon new Manager that just his moving expenses will cost us as mentioned upwards of 18,000 with our good councilman Howell opposing all that city government waste without support on a 3 to 2 vote. Sure Howell is frustrated seeing the one’s at the helm ignoring the taxpayers wishes. Any of you attacking Howell attended the April 2 City Council meeting or saw the video? Also issues unresolved and getting worst like shown in next link is what helps to generate more homeless : palmcoastobserver.com/article/patients-left-struggling-as-flaglers-number-of-medicaid-mental-health-care-providers-drops-to-one , and this is not Howell’s creation or BS!
David S. says
Concerned Citizen you are so right with your post. Mr Howell you are not in the military any more just remember that you are representing the public. This city has wasted millions since incorporation thanks to Netts and Landon and will continue to waste our tax dollars until we get some younger people on the council who know what they are doing. I voted for incorporation of this place and every day I could kick myself for doing so.
The Realist says
Create an ordinance that prohibits motorist from handing out anything to people on the roadways. After a few weeks of writing citations, people will stop handing them money. When the money dries up they will migrate away. Problem solved. Maybe they can head down to Volusia and enjoy some of that 12 million taxpayers there are on the hook for Ms Calderwood spoke of.
I hope this isn’t all show and no go. We should get weekly updates as to the progress being made. A shelter must NOT be the solution. Like they say “you build it and they’ll come”.
Simple quick fix is to clear the trees on the library lot. Without trees, the persons in question will be unable to hide out. It’s not a real solution because homelessness is a systemic problem none our leaders have the courage to address with fairness and justice. I only suggest this because colonel Howell seems poised to do harm of some sort. We are not at war with the less fortunate- stand down marine that’s an order. This hill is not worth dying on or killing for.
Trailer Bob says
When we say “homeless” what we really mean is the person who is homeless, is so by choice, in most cases. When I was young I was homeless also. However, that was only because I refused to live by the rules of my parents. Hard to imagine that all these homeless people have no relatives.
Just a Thought says
Denise, I couldn’t finish reading your comment due to the fact that it was completely and utterly disgusting to express that someone who has died would not be proud of their daughter who, not only has been very involved with the city prior to his passing but also learned a lot from him growing up. You do not know Jim Holland by any means nor did it seem like you did because he would be proud of her. This article has literally nothing to do with him and to bring him into it after so many years is just flat out repulsive to see, how dare you speak for someone who doesn’t speak anymore. You should really evaluate your decisions because posting that comment is not something I’d ever be proud of posting.
Seems odd the ole Colonel hasn’t followed the corps discipline. In order to resolve a problem, you first identify, in detail, what the problem is. Then brainstorm, come up with viable solutions, then assign those that will work to fix it PRONTO.
The only way to do this is by enlisting ALL those affected and LISTEN. ALL also includes representatives of the ‘homeless’. Make sure you LISTEN and repeat to your group, “if I understand you completely . . . !”
Colonel Howell, get your crap in order and do this right.
Willy Boy says
The Realist, Flagmire, Trailer Bob – sound sensible.
We have younger people in the council now and what we got so far are used millions in costly amenities like the splash park on a Holland Park surrounded by blight created by abandoned or unkept houses by slum lords rentals some housing addicted tenants subletting. By push from the two younger in the council we got millions invested in the city Fiber Optic and Broadband that just lost its biggest customer the Advent Hospital and stands to loose the schools account, to the big boys providers. Why do we have to be the FL pioneer of government owned costly fiber optic cable with so much competition around us? Millions in Innovation tech and once more in Town Center district while residents like in the last meeting are not even replied to their questions of slum lords rentals blighting and undermining the value of our homes, our safety and the increase of nuisance traffic making our residential traffic lanes and drives not intended for it, to look and feel like freeways and thruways with gasoline and liquified gas tank trucks noise emission zooming by at over 10-15 miles the speed limits of 30 and 40 mph, 60 feet of houses. The unjustified excuse branded by others that those homeowners knew when they bought in these drives and lanes what they were getting into is just a total frivolous misconception of the original ITT selling policy given to them. The real problem is that in order to justified the approved, Tidelands, Sanctuary, Bella Harbor and other hoa’s and condos built off Palm Harbor Parkway, the last city administration increased the speed limit and decorated these lanes and drives with double yellow lines that the current drivers violate, to sustain the increased traffic. The one’s that say “if you don’ t like it move” do not reside on them and endure the nuisance created around 2008 and are just undermining the effort asking for at least these lanes and drives be designated “no trucks, no thru traffic”. Meanwhile millions are spent but not in the much needed widening of Old Kings Road North to redirect the current traffic. Two millions or more wasted In reducing from four to two lanes White View Parkway in a growing city that desperately needs east to west roads for us all not to get stuck in Palm Coast Parkway? That is the choice of the young reps in our current council.
John Brady says
Council Man Howell and Council Man Branquinho are looking after your money and the other three are the big spenders. Jack has many qualities but he missed the class on tack because he was at the get it done class..He speaks his mind and what he says although maybe inartfully is for the best interest of all citizens of Palm Coast.
He and Eddie will continue to attempt to reign in the spending of the three other big spenders. I hope all voters realize the City has an also 200 million dollar debt and yet the Council continues to spend on wants at the expense of needs.
As Jack and candidate Topton proposed in the 2018 election and I proposed in 2016, a forensic audit needs to be done to get a true picture of the City’s spending.I am sure there would be some interesting findings.
Hey Jack! from a retired Marine, is there any progress to report on ridding us of those bums and hobos??
Seems like everyday Palm Coast is losing more trees near the library. Driving past this homeless camp each day is an eyesore. They are no longer hidden from sight, which is the point for cutting down trees, but it’s filling up with trash once again and it also appears to have more residents each day. Now I see the homeless are gathering in Heroes Memorial Park. Apparently this has become some sort of pick up/drop off area and I’d like to know why that’s not being addressed. That park is to pay respect to our veterans and members of law enforcement. Why are we allowing this?
These hodos and bums should be put in jail for destroying county property. If the county and city grew some balls instead of walking away from the problem we could take our city back from this seige. I’ll bet there isn’t one of them who are or were a citizen of Palm Coast. Come on Jack get it done. We’re loosing our patience with this bull crap.
Not very many people choose to be homeless, so as a respectable most of us in one form or another are God fearing individuals, so why can’t we at least provide porta potty and once a day water to clean themselves. I mean I have camped all my life and the things they have today are amazing. Example, showers that collect rain water so one has fresh water to shower in. I personally have straws that have filters to make fresh water out of puddles ( and yes I have used it) example 2 hurricanes and no water or electricity for more than a week. They have all kinds of things that in the long run are useful and would help tremendously. At Least while we discuss for goodness only knows how long how to help with out going broke. I know I would want somethings like that if I was in their shoes, wouldn’t you. I am not rich nor poor but 1 week trip to the the hospital has put me in the bracket of just a few paychecks saved. So think what would you appreciate if it was you, and trust me many of us are just a few paychecks from living in a tent begging for money and asking anyone for help. Not all homeless are bad people, just in a bad situation with absolutely no way out. Thank you.