Bunnell's Commission Votes To Close Flagler County’s Only Cold Weather Homeless Shelter

Jul 9, 2019

The Bunnell City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to uphold a decision to shut down Flagler County’s only cold-weather homeless shelter.

The Sheltering Tree is operated by the Flagler County Family Assistance Center, Inc., and opens its doors whenever overnight temperatures drop below 40 degrees. It’s been in Bunnell’s First United Methodist Church for the past 11 years, but the church is in a residential zone and the shelter needed a zoning exemption to keep operating.

The City’s zoning board shut the shelter down in May and the City Commission upheld that decision on June 25. The commission decided to revisit the issue during their meeting on Monday night.

Sheltering Tree board member Sarah Ulis said the commission’s unanimous vote came after about an hour of passionate testimony on both sides of the issue.

“I’d say that the commission reflected regret for its decision, saying it was a legal decision not a moral one,” she said.

Ulis said Sheltering Tree board members and volunteers have pledged to move forward and find ways to restructure, relocate and continue serving the area’s homeless, nearly homeless and working poor.

"We hope to work toward a meaningful solution in concert with Flagler County, Bunnell, Palm Coast and Flagler Beach," said Vice Chair Martin Collins.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.