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It’s a beacon of hope and a bridge to love, shelter, support and transformation.

The Bridge, a full-service shelter in DeLand, is getting ready to open at the end of the month. That the dream is about to come to fruition is absolutely miraculous. But the real miracle is the four-year journey of teamwork, sweat equity and collaboration that has brought this project to the finish line.

The dream of building a homeless shelter in DeLand was born in 2016 during a joint effort launched by The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia and the City of DeLand, along with the other cities on the west side, as well as Volusia County, the faith community, and local businesses and civic groups.

What came out of those initial efforts was the realization that in order to help break the cycle of homelessness, a shelter had to offer more than just a bed to sleep in. It had to offer a holistic approach that addressed not just shelter needs, but everything from hot meals and hot showers to case management, job training, mental-health therapy and medical-referral services.

With that, the concept for The Bridge was born. For those facing homelessness, the idea is for The Bridge to serve as a 30-bed, temporary crisis shelter and transition to permanent housing. And the facility’s day center will help provide services and tools to help people overcome the challenges of being financially displaced.

The Bridge will also provide a wet room for detoxification and also will serve as a storm or cold-weather shelter.

The Bridge already has begun its mission of feeding, serving lunch and dinner to the hungry and the homeless.

And none of this would have been possible without the active support of everyone involved. The City of DeLand and The Neighborhood Center have been true leaders in this effort. 

The county also has assisted with the funding, allocating $1.48 million to support the facility.

I couldn’t be prouder of the way that West Volusia has come together to provide relief to those in our midst who are in need of a helping hand up and some support and compassion. For those who are struggling with poverty and homelessness, this wonderful new facility will truly be a bridge to a better life!

— Girtman is a member of the Volusia County Council, representing West Volusia District 1.

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