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Homeless shelter in Craig on hold

Councilors take no action on grant support letter for shelter

The City of Craig's Council Chambers.
Craig Press File

The push which began in October 2020 to bring a homeless shelter to Craig is now on hold.

A long process came to a disappointing head Tuesday night for Hannah Wood and the rest of the Housing First Alliance of Craig as city councilors took no action on a support letter to apply for an Emergency Solutions Grant for an emergency homeless shelter in Craig.

Wood had previously explained to councilors the need for an emergency homeless shelter for the winter months in Craig. From there, Wood then helped form the Housing First Alliance of Craig with other nonprofits in the community in hopes of pushing the process forward.



In late January, Wood partnered with Homeward Bound Grand Valley, bringing in the Grand Junction organization as a fiscal agent of sorts to help push the project forward.

Tuesday night though, councilors took no action on a letter of support for the grant, again expressing concerns from constituents about the need for a homeless shelter, while also stating their own concerns about a lack of a business plan and the need for more information.



Speaking against the project following no motion from councilors to approve the letter of support, Councilor Chris Nichols raised concerns about setting up a shelter and seeing people pour in from all over the Western Slope, as Craig remains a resource desert for the homeless population. The closest shelter is 150 miles away in Grand Junction.

“…I raised the question of ’if we build it, will they come?’ I think that’s the general concern from people that I’ve talked to about this project,” Nichols said. “We’re sympathetic, but I think there’s enough resources — there’s never enough anywhere — but I think there’s enough resources in this community; this is a very generous and giving community.

“…At this point, I’m not in favor of the city sponsoring or being the fiscal agent for this project. From that standpoint, I’m sympathetic to the issue, but I know our neighbors to the east would send people over,” Nichols added.

Mayor Jarrod Ogden echoed Nichols’ concerns, stating he has also been approached by community members expressing their concerns about a possible shelter popping up in Moffat County.

“I’ve not had anyone come to me that was for it,” Ogden stated. “I would share also that your are accurate in your statement that this is a very caring, giving community and that there are things in place for folks to receive help. I don’t know that it helps cover all of the needs in the community, but it sure helps.”

Councilor Ryan Hess took a different approach to the decision to take no action Tuesday night, highlighting the need for more information overall in terms of a business plan and overall sustainability for Craig.

“It’s a great idea, but my concern is the sustainability and the scope,” Hess said. “Is it more large-scale than we need? There’s a lot of unanswered questions about what this looks like in operation. Because some of those don’t seem to be answered well enough…there’s a lot of sustainability issues there. That’s my reservation; I support the idea, but once you start something like this, it’s something you have to keep going. If you don’t or if the funding resources go away, you’re going to leave these people out in the cold more so than they are now.”

Councilor Paul James, who addressed his own issues with homelessness in the Jan. 12 council meeting, raised concerns about those in the homeless population even using the resources available.

“When I was in this situation over a decade ago, as a person who would have needed those services, I either wouldn’t have used them outright, or I would have abused them to the fullest extent,” James said. “I don’t want to create another program that is abused; that’s my biggest concern. It’s kind of a harsh reality, but when I was in that situation, that’s kind of what you do. That’s not to say that everyone in that situation does that, but it’s what happens.”

James added that as a business manager downtown, he’s had numerous dealings with the homeless population in Craig.

“They move from place to place, and use up all the available resources possible before moving on,” James added. “I’ve spoken to numerous nonprofits as well — some of whom I know very well — and they feel the same way in that regard.”

With no action taken on the letter of support, Mayor Ogden expressed his thanks to council members for being open and honest.

“I appreciate the council’s honesty and candor on this, and doing what you feel is right in representing those folks that voted you into this position and you speak for, if you will,” Ogden said.

Hearing the decision to take no action, Wood stated to councilors that the next steps forward is something she needs to think about.

“I’m exhausted working on this, and I am meeting road blocks left and right,” Wood said. “So I will get back to you.”

The decision to not take action on a letter of support has caused some frustration for Wood, but she said she’s steadfast in her resolve to establish a shelter in Craig.

“My resolve to do this project is all the more strong now,” Wood said to the Craig Press Wednesday morning. “I don’t think it’s dead yet. They [councilors] just need more facts, and they need to hear more support from community members. All they hear right now is from community members that don’t want it. So, they want more facts, more statistics, more information on infrastructure and overall sustainability.

“We’re not giving up,” Wood added. “Social change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process — sometimes a bumpy, emotional one — but we will get this done and do right by our most vulnerable, underserved people.”

As Wood understands it, the no action Tuesday night was not an outright “no” on the project as a whole. She knows what council is asking for now, so she’ll push to provide that. She does need help from the community though.

“They didn’t say no, as I understood it,” Wood said. “They say that they needed X, Y and Z, so I will give them X, Y and Z. But it sounds like they’ve only heard from people who are against that, so we need to help change that. I know that there are people out there that support this project. Call council, call the mayor and state that you support this project.”

 


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