- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Keneshia Curry wanted a fresh start. She found it at Palmetto House.

The 31-year-old said she came to the transitional home from Miami when she decided to seek help getting through an addiction.

“I was having problems with drugs. I lost my job,” said Curry as her arms wrapped around herself in a small hug as she spoke. “It was rough. It took over my life.”

Curry is one of about 1,000 people that pass through the halls of Palmetto House every year. For the past 20 years, advocates at the drug and alcohol-free environment help tenants reach goals through work with social service agencies, Daytona State College and other groups. Individuals or families pay a small weekly rent, adults are assigned chores in the home and many hold outside jobs to make the home and services completely self-sufficient.

The multifaceted 48-room halfway home is run by Mid-Florida Housing Partnership Inc.



Agency Executive Director Fran Gordon said once the home has helped a resident get back on track, Mid-Florida has 47 rental properties throughout Volusia and Flagler counties to transition to and, after that, that person could be eligible to purchase a home through the partnership.

“It would be hard if this was just it,” Gordon said of the process. “Then you would never know what happens when people walk out the door. But if you give them motivation and you give them opportunity, not only to be here, but to be on their own in a rental situation and eventually to own their own home, I mean, that’s the perfect scenario.”

Originally called The Palmetto Hotel, the 125-year-old home is as much of a success story as many former residents that spent tumultuous turns of their lives there.

In the mid-1990s, the city decided to demolish it after an 18-month-old child fell out an upstairs window and was caught by her 4-year-old sister.

When the city gave the nonprofit that ran the home a deadline to make needed repairs, White bought the building. Through the help of donations and copious amounts of elbow grease by residents and volunteers, as well as more than $200,000 in materials and service, the home was restored. The 14-month renovation project was completed Dec. 11, 1996.

Now, Program Manager Mike Coleman’s office is packed with mementos of the lives he’s touched. One, a brightly colored painting of the community home, was created by a former client, he said.

“That’s the one I really like. That took some imagination,” Coleman said of the artwork.

And several red Radio Flyer wagons sit on the southern office wall.

Coleman recalled what the wagons represent in his deep, commanding southern drawl.

“My mother knew my pattern of drinking, so she would come over and she would take my car keys,” Coleman said. “I’d have to walk to the liquor store, and I’d take the red wagon with me to get my booze, cause I’d buy it by the case.”

When Coleman finally went through a recovery program, he still had a house in Deltona but, he said, “By the time I got out of treatment, they’d foreclosed on it.”

That’s when Coleman found his way to Palmetto House.

“It gave me the opportunity that I needed to get my life back together,” said Coleman.

Residents must have a plan for improvement and follow it, said Coleman.

And for those residents like Curry that are following that plan, the house on Palmetto Avenue can be just what they needed.

Curry is enrolled at Daytona State College and working on her social services degree. She expects to graduate in the spring and hopes to transfer to University of Central Florida after that.

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Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, https://www.news-journalonline.com

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