Commissioners approve letter outlining homeless shelter concerns
Once planned for the old Furniture Gallery building, organizers say that’s no longer the plan for the family shelter
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
A majority of Moffat County’s commissioners approved sending a letter to the Housing First Alliance of Craig Tuesday regarding concerns about who will be served by the homeless shelter once planned for the old Furniture Gallery building. In the letter, the board “strongly urges” director Hannah Wood to request a grant the Alliance has been awarded be terminated.
Two commissioners — District 1’s Tony Bohrer and District 3’s Donald Broom — said that the Board of County Commissioners might take back its support of the shelter based on their understanding at the time that the shelter would only be for Moffat County residents. District 2 commissioner Melody Villard was not present at the meeting.
Because the housing alliance received federal funds from the CARES Act, it can not put preconditions on those who request its services. That means, with the federal funding, they cannot turn away people experiencing homelessness because they are not from Moffat County, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, etc.
“Our letter of support for this grant was premised on the idea that the funding was to help local Moffat County residents who were struggling with homelessness,” the letter reads. “In our meeting with you, you never discussed even the possibility of a regional homeless shelter to be located in Craig. Our support for the grant was based on your representation that this funding was to help homeless people in Moffat County.”
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The letter also reads that the board of commissioners believes that Moffat County government should not do anything to potentially bring people experiencing homelessness into the county, citing that Moffat County has “limited resources” that would be strained by an increased need.
“We are totally opposed to bringing homeless people into Moffat County who do not already reside here,” the letter continues. “Per the CARES Act, your funds may not be used to require people experiencing homelessness to receive treatment, or perform any other prerequisite activities as a condition for receiving shelter, housing or other services. Moffat County already struggles with having sufficient services to meet local needs for people who struggle with addiction, mental health and financial needs.”
The Alliance had previously announced a plan to bring the shelter to the old Furniture Gallery building on Ranney Street and 4th Street, but Wood says that plan is no longer the case.
Currently, the plan for the shelter, which is yet to determine a new planned location, is to have 10 to 12 family pods, with each pod hosting around four people. The shelter has secured over $600,000 from the CARES Act to develop the building, cover general expenses for the shelter and pay the salaries for six workers.
According to a clause in the grant agreement, the applicant may “request termination of this Grant by sending notice to the State, or to the Federal Awarding Agency with a copy to the State, which includes the reasons for the termination and the effective date of the termination…”
“We strongly urge you to consider requesting the grant be terminated if you cannot limit people in the homeless program in Moffat County to the people who are currently Moffat County residents,” the letter reads.
During the meeting, Bohrer said he would do “whatever it takes” to help Moffat County residents experiencing homelessness, but the board has heard many concerns and “strenuous objections” from the community about the shelter. Last month, over a dozen business owners met with the housing alliance to discuss the shelter’s location and impact on their businesses.
Commissioner Broom echoed concerns about the lack of preconditions.
“When they first start out (looking for support from the commissioners), they need to put it out on the table: who’s going to (benefit from the shelter),” Broom said. “When they started to change things in the middle of it, I think that’s where citizens of Moffat County get mad, and they have a reason to.”
According to leaders in the community, the housing crisis that is affecting the entire nation is also being seen in Moffat County. According to census data, in 2010, there were 6,196 housing units in Moffat County, but that number dropped by 105 units over the last decade — even with the overall population of the county decreasing by 503 people.
Wood said she has received the letter and that she and the board will review it. On Monday, the Housing First Alliance board presented answers to questions submitted by people in the community. At this time, Wood said that there will not be another public meeting regarding the shelter.
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.