Neighborhood Center
The Neighborhood Center is at 428 S. Woodland Blvd. in DeLand. The center’s mission is to provide food for the hungry, prevent homelessness and provide shelter for the homeless for all of West Volusia.

West Volusia’s leading agency for helping those down on their luck appears to have hit a rough patch of its own.

Over the past two weeks, two top staff members have left The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. One of them, Michael Forrester, director of The Bridge, was abruptly fired Dec. 14, and Neighborhood Center officials said they have been advised not to comment on why.

The Bridge is a homeless shelter run by The Neighborhood Center under contract with the City of DeLand.

“The agency and its Board of Directors are completing a full internal review of Mr. Forrester’s tenure leading up to his termination,” The Neighborhood Center said in a news release about Forrester’s departure.

The Neighborhood Center also said there will be no interruptions in the services existing and new clients are receiving at The Bridge. Liam Sweeney, a Neighborhood Center employee of five years, will operate The Bridge while the agency searches for a new permanent director.

Michael Forrester

In an unrelated development, The Neighborhood Center said, Susan Clark, who has been the nonprofit’s executive director for 15 years, resigned Dec. 9.

Sources who asked not to be named said Clark and the nonprofit agency’s board of directors disagreed about what direction the growing agency should take.

Neighborhood Center officials emphasized that the two departures were not related.

Clark said she looks back joyfully on her time at the nonprofit. 

“It was a wonderful, wonderful journey with The Neighborhood Center,” Clark said.

“The Board of Directors thanks her for her 15 years of leadership and dedication to the mission and to the community of West Volusia,” The Neighborhood Center said in a separate news release about Clark’s departure.

The agency has a search team established to find a successor for Clark, Neighborhood Center board member Rick Rintz said.

Susan Clark

During the transition, Waylan Niece, who has been with the agency for more than 10 years, will lead The Neighborhood Center as interim executive director.

Forrester, who was hired by The Neighborhood Center to open The Bridge in 2019, was featured in The Beacon‘s recent article on the lack of housing for the homeless in West Volusia. 

Despite repeated attempts, Forrester could not be reached for comment.

This story will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I was the first employee hired at the Bridge Shelter. Once Michael Forrest came on board I began to see problems. Reporting them to Ms. Clark with proof. I must have been labeled a trouble maker and Mr. Forrester made things to where I had to leave when I tried to expose deficiencies on him to Ms. Clark. She did not offer me any protection and I guess she didn’t investigate.

  2. This is bullshit ok Susan was fired also and Michael was not in charge of housing josh Hernandez is and gas major attitude problems and us very disrespectful to tenants renting for I’m him there needs to be a protest to get him fired cuz u was there for five months and my file was sabatiged by a case manager who is no longer there josh and Tammy long never assisted me with h housing only help who they want and even DELAND Housing wonders y he’s still there smdh this is pathetic but I will expire facts about this horrible place DONT LET THEM FOOL YOU I got mail stolen by staff and hv proof it was delivered and lemme or waylan has not compensated me but out me out three days after I filed a report they never helped me and the world will know

  3. Look at the pics I’m Sabrina Hightower went to get help for housing Josh was so rude they help whites and Mexican and not the blacks YHEY R RUDE THEY STEAL RESIDENTS PROPERTY SO THEY I ULL STEAL DONATIONS AND WAYLAN DOES NOT HV THE DEGREE IR PERSONALITY TO RUN THE BRIDGE THE DONIRS NEED TO O KNOW THEY ALL X DRUG USERS THE STAFF THATS FUCKIN CRAZY SHUT THEM DOWN

  4. I provide community services in Volusia County. I’ve had affiliations with this company. I have worked with people in the community that have received services with this company. it is sad to hear such a story and the comments are written in such disgust. There are unfortunate people that are homeless, that have children, that have severe medical issues, there are children that go hungry, woman and men that experience domestic violence, people that deal with living in the wood, people that do result to drugs and alcohol addiction as a coping method, people that have loved ones that have died from Covid and other illnesses. We live in a world that is not perfect and is shutting it down the right decision? I have also witnessed abuse from people that enter the system, milk the system, break the rules, are defiant and cause chaos to others that really need assistance. Being homeless affects a person’s mental, physical and emotional status. Bad enough that there are not enough resources, such as affordable housing, the cost of living continues to rise, Covid has been life changing. I work with the community because I was homeless at one of my life due to my life partner being in an accident. We had younger children and it all came down on me. I was in a shelter with my children while my partner was in a coma. I experienced some mishaps and witnessed participants out of control and my children had to witness adults that could not control their negative behavior or follow the rules. This made my situation worse, and I suffered for the sake of my children and other participants. I had to pray and advocated stronger for my family. I also witnessed issues with the company, that was not something I focused on since it was not towards me, it did not cause me harm, since I gave no reason to feed into anyone’s negative behavior. Everyday, I worked towards my stability and took advantage of the help that became available. to conclude, I have met people that have benefitted from the services of this company that helps all races. It is defensive to read of the certain races being shouted out. I will be praying that our community continues to receive assistance and for the displaced people in the community to have the will-power to accept the help they need and get a chance to live a safer and healthier lifestyle.

    • Yes Some have benefitted and some did not I myself was there over five months work get two incomes and a new SUV so don’t judge the people that did not have the same experience u did ok don’t do that unless u have facts like I DO !!!!?!!?!!!

  5. This agency is a mess since Susan Clark left. Josh Vizcaino the housing director is as nasty as they get. Not only does he select who gets help he treats his staff with abuse. I’ve seen and heard him myself and it’s horrible. There’s a lot more going on there that’s going to lead to them being exposed for who they really are.

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