September 24, 2014
By Anthony DeFeo
News Journal photos/Peter Bauer
Volusia Deputies Help DeLand-Area Homeless
Armed with personal hygiene packages and chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, deputies from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office district 2 headquarters visited several homeless camps around the city early Wednesday morning.
The morning outing — the deputies’ second this year — is part of an effort to build a rapport with the local homeless population, said district commander Capt. Charles Brown.
Having open lines of communication with those living in homeless camps lets the Sheriff’s Office connect those who want to get their lives back on track with groups that can help them, as well as keep tabs on those who might cause trouble.
“What we do differently here is we identify where our camps are, just to keep tabs on the people there in case someone comes up missing or there’s a problem in the area or something like that,” said Brown. “If there’s some people that are out there that don’t want to be homeless, that really want to be back in the mainstream, we want to do everything we can to help with that.”
The deputies’ first outing in March was generally well-received, though Brown noted some of the people they visited vehemently just wanted to be left alone.
In total, there are about eight camps around DeLand housing a total of 20 to 25 people, said Deputy Morris “Gunny” Froscher, who Brown credits with spearheading the agency’s outreach effort to the homeless.
“They’re people, too,” Froscher said. “It could be you or me.”
A job loss or other dramatic life change could push anyone into homelessness, he noted.
Staff from Veterans Affairs and the Volusia Flagler Coalition for the Homeless were originally going to join deputies Wednesday morning, but record heavy rainfall on the east side of the county prevented them from being able to make the trip.
In all, there are more than 1,400 unsheltered homeless people in Volusia and Flagler counties, according to a 2013 homeless count done by the Coalition for the Homeless.
Jennifer Gordon and her husband have been homeless, living in a wooded area near the site of DeLand’s weekly flea market since May, when they lost their vehicle and could no longer get to their jobs in Orlando.
“We’ve been here ever since. We work at the flea market on the weekends, but that’s about it,” she said.
While most of the camps around DeLand are home to just a couple of people, such as a husband and wife, one large wooded camp on the north end of town looks like a small city, with rows of tents and tarps and a network of trails connecting each makeshift residence.
The camp is where Scott Sharples, 43, ended up four months ago.
“My grandparents sold their house and I didn’t have any other place to go. I was going from home to home for awhile and after that they just didn’t want me in there, so I became homeless,” he said.
“I have no problem with them coming out, especially Froscher. He’s a good cop. There’s still a lot of good people out there that help out,” Sharples said.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151