March 16, 2015. The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
DAYTONA BEACH — Members of the faith community challenged elected officials Monday night to reduce youth arrests, change the job application process to make it easier for convicted criminals to find employment and vow to support a homeless shelter that would stay open around the clock.
The meeting was organized by the Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony Organization (F.A.I.T.H), which is comprised of 32 church congregations. Yes or no questions were drafted by members of the organization and given to elected officials that were present, including county and city council members, police chiefs and mayors.
Members of F.A.I.T.H. said too many children in Volusia County Schools are arrested and left with permanent records that cause a barrier to future employment, military involvement and college scholarships.
During Monday’s assembly, the group asked the Daytona Beach and New Smyrna police departments to increase the number of civil citations offered to minors. Civil citations give first-time misdemeanor offenders the opportunity to participate in intervention services at the earliest stage of delinquency, rather than being arrested.
Data presented by F.A.I.T.H. during the meeting showed 525 youths in Volusia County were arrested when they could have been given a civil citation.
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood and New Smyrna Beach Police Lt. Christopher Roos said they would work to increase the number of civil citations issued.
On job applications: Members of F.A.I.T.H said people who have been arrested or convicted of a crime need a fairer process when they apply for jobs.
The group asked Daytona Beach officials to remove the box on job applications that asks about criminal background.
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Commissioners Paula Reed, Ruth Trager and Pam Woods said they would work to draft an ordinance to ban asking that information.
“It is in our best interest to make good for all our citizens who have made past mistakes to give them a second chance. I believe in a God who believes in second chances,” Henry said.
On homelessness: More than 5,000 homeless people live in Volusia County, but members of the group are concerned there are only 21 emergency beds for single homeless people.
F.A.I.T.H wants the Volusia County Council to commit to opening an around-the-clock shelter called the Volusia Safe Harbor that will include case management, intake center, beds, food and medical services. While most city and county officials present said they would work to help fund the effort,
Phil Egitto, co-chairman of the the group, said similar meetings in past years have succeeded in making changes in the county, including implementing nighttime bus service, beginning drug treatment programs in the jail, and prompting an increased police force in Daytona Beach.