2021 in Review: The homeless shelter debate | CraigDailyPress.com

2021 in Review: The homeless shelter debate

The former home of the Furniture Gallery on Ranney Street was considered as the home for a since-abandoned development of a would-be family shelter for homeless parents and children, according to the Housing First Alliance. But the Alliance left off its plans to build after community disapproval. The building now is owned by a church.
Eliza Noe / Craig Press

In one of the most controversial issues facing the Craig community during the summer, the potential creation of a homeless shelter became one of the most-read stories in the Craig Press this year.

In May, Organizers of the Housing First Alliance of Craig received over $600,000 in grant dollars from the federal government to go toward the creation of the shelter for people experiencing homelessness. It was promised to those who signed off on the application — including the county commissioners — that the shelter was specifically going to be used for families, which many people agreed was a step in the right direction.

According to the CARES Act Emergency Solutions Grant, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would have provided $569,201 for the shelter, another $65,570 for Homeless Management Information Systems software and $57,129 for administration costs. The deadline for the grant would have been Jan. 31, 2022.

As pushback from community members who strongly opposed the shelter’s creation grew louder, Alliance members conducted public meetings around frequently asked questions regarding who and where the shelter would serve. Those meetings were often contentious, further pushing a divide between those who supported the shelter and those who did not.

In July, Housing First Alliance members met with business owners to discuss concerns about the shelter’s location and its potential residents. That meeting — originally scheduled for 30 minutes — lasted almost three hours. Specifically, community members at that meeting had problems with language in the application for the CARES grant. In the shelter’s application for federal funding, the Alliance had written that individuals or families could use the facility, a fact that many at the meeting opposed.

Because of the type of funding the shelter received, the Alliance could not put preconditions on who could use the shelter — meaning that they could not turn someone away because they weren’t in a family or not a resident of Moffat County. Housing First Alliance had found at least 12 families that already lived in Craig that needed stable housing to fill the potential shelter, but there was no guarantee it would be those families only who were sheltered.

In August, another meeting was planned and executed, and was once again contentious. The board of county commissioners also sent a letter in that month to the Alliance that outlined concerns about the shelter. According to the commissioners, their initial understanding was that the shelter was only for Moffat County residents, but upon finding out that preconditions could not be placed on residents, they asked executive director Hannah Wood to return the CARES grant.

The one-time target location for the shelter — the former Furniture Gallery building — was sold to become a church, pushing the search for the shelter’s location back to square one.

The effort to bring a shelter for unhoused people to Craig is not over, but the execution in the future will likely change significantly. The federal grant was relinquished, and the Housing First Alliance is no longer in a partnership with Grand Junction-based group Homeward Bound, which had been executing the grant. Wood also stepped down as executive director, but remains on the board.

Despite efforts to prevent a homeless shelter, Craig — just like other towns and cities across the nation — is facing a housing shortage that will likely need long-term solutions to its problem.

In a recently released housing assessment commissioned by the city, Craig still needs 75 housing units to reach a balanced market. Specifically, there’s a need for smaller units that have 1-2 bedrooms. Business owners already cite a large concern about housing for their employees, and with future employers potentially needed to fill the void coming from plant and mine closures, housing will continue to be a great concern going into the next few years.

In early 2022, the consultants will release the final action plan as to how the city should move forward with potentially providing housing or if another option would be a better fit for the community.

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