January 17th, 2012

DELAND, FL, 15 January 2012: Michael E. Arth, the urban designer and policy analyst who rebuilt DeLand’s “Cracktown” into Downtown DeLand’s Historic Garden District, has founded the non-profit Villages for the Homeless Inc. The 501(c)(3) seeks to build Tiger Bay Village, a full-service community that would fill the gaps in adult homeless services in Volusia County. It would provide a single-point, county-wide solution to what is now being inadequately addressed by the county’s 476 social service agencies, which are now concentrated primarily in poor neighborhoods within the inner cities.

According to the organization’s website, Tiger Bay Village would consolidate services for the benefit of the adult homeless, lower costs, and provide an alternative to prison. “The U.S. incarceration rate is the highest in the world, being 7 to 12 times higher than other industrialized countries, primarily because of the way we treat non-violent people with mental illness and addictive disorders,” said Mr. Arth. “The village would provide immediate shelter for any homeless person who wants it, in a humane setting that is away from city centers but still accessible by public transportation.”

The village would be located on approximately 80 acres of county-owned land already zoned for this purpose, off Red John Road on Highway 92, just west of Daytona Beach. For five years, Arth, and members of the organization’s advisory board, have sought to have the land donated so that financing can be raised and construction begun. Volusia County Council members, a majority of whom would be needed to okay the donation, have told them that forming a non- profit is a vital step in that process.

The proposed, campus-like, pedestrian-oriented community would surround a small lake and consist of group homes, each with a maximum of 15 residents. The group homes could be sponsored and managed by any social service agency wanting to build in the Village and share services. Mental health counseling, work training, employment, housing, and extended substance abuse rehabilitation will be available. The Stewart-Marchman-ACT Pinegrove Behavioral Health Care facility is next door to the proposed site. Clients finishing the 3-5 day detox program at Pinegrove could easily check in next door for extended rehabilitation. The longer term care provided at the village could help prevent clients with addictions gain the enduring skills they need to become productive citizens, instead of relying on social service agencies and handouts.

According to Mr. Arth, “The village would be built incrementally, subject to need and financing, and result in drastically lower costs and better results for the chronic adult homeless population than the current system.”

Villages for the Homeless - Introduction

March 26th, 2009

Thanks to a generous private donor and the help of Heather Taracka, Chris Daun, Randy Croy, Christian Weaver, Greg Gimbert, Laurie Miller, Gwen Azama-Edwards, and others, the website and blog is now up and there’s a lot to read about. We have articles, film and audio clips, links, and plenty of photos that should give anyone a good introduction to what Villages for the Homeless is all about.

Tiger Bay Village could be a one-stop shop for the diverse needs of the homeless where services can be consolidated for the maximum benefit of both the homeless and the rest of us. It would have sections for the adult homeless who are still suffering or recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a separate “neighborhood” for the clean and sober. Even though the village would be secular, churches and other faith-based organizations could have sections within the village where they could practice their unique approach, in a setting where they can be more effective.

Homelessness is not something that exists in isolation. Much of the problem with the current approach is that we have been trying to deal with homelessness on a piecemeal basis instead of as a community system. We have been trying to fit broken pieces into a wider system that is in itself seriously flawed in terms of automobile over-dependency, the war on drugs, how we deal with poverty and incarceration, and many other issues. This is why we should focus on creating a village–a place where the whole constellation of psychological and physical needs can be addressed in a beautiful rural setting that is separate from the the perils of the stressed-out cities.

It is also a problem that we need to solve together. All cities will benefit from cleaning up the problems caused by homelessness and they should all contribute some of the savings they will derive from a regional solution. Ultimately it will cost us less than than the current approach, while giving all of us much more.

Michael E. Arth