New Smyrna Beach considering trailers and tiny homes for its homeless

Homelessness is no longer just a Daytona Beach problem. City officials in New Smyrna Beach have been debating what they should do to help the homeless as well as residents who say they've had problems with homeless people coming onto their property and stealing from them. Pictured is a man relaxing on a bench along Canal Street on Thursday.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Rachail Allen’s security cameras have captured homeless people taking a dip in the pool outside her Faulkner Street home, and stealing her plants, flags and house decorations. 

She’s also been aggressively hit up for drugs, cash and food by homeless people in Riverside Park. Other New Smyrna Beach residents have woken up to find someone sleeping on their front porch or watched homeless people slip in and out of woods near their homes.

Over the past two years, the city has come face to face with the reality that it has a growing homeless population. Leaders of the southeast Volusia County city realize the number of unsheltered people is likely to keep climbing if they don’t intervene, and they’re struggling to find their way out of the dilemma that’s been thrust upon them.

“I don’t want to become the next Seattle,” said New Smyrna Beach Mayor Russ Owen. “I don’t want to become a homeless Mecca.”

Some New Smyrna Beach residents say they've had increasing problems with the homeless in Riverside Park. Pictured are three people who were at the park last summer and appeared to be drifters. City officials are debating whether to start using First Step Shelter in Daytona Beach or find a spot in New Smyrna Beach to create a small cluster of trailers homeless people can stay in temporarily.

Seattle is at crisis stage with around 12,000 homeless people at last count. New Smyrna Beach is in another, much smaller, homeless galaxy with around 50-75 homeless people.

Counts done by well-meaning volunteers always miss homeless people who can’t be found or purposely evade the annual homeless census done nationwide. But regardless of what New Smyrna Beach’s true tally is, the city’s homeless population has been expanding enough that longtime residents are noticing and worrying about how much worse it could get.

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