Housing Alliance answers big questions surrounding homeless shelter | CraigDailyPress.com

Housing Alliance answers big questions surrounding homeless shelter

The sign welcoming drivers to Craig on the east side of town along Highway 40.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

On Monday, members of the Housing First Alliance of Craig met with community members to answer important questions surrounding the shelter to be used for people experiencing homelessness in Moffat County.

What is the current strategy for opening?

At this time, there is no set location for the shelter. Though the old Furniture Gallery was mentioned in earlier conversations, executive director Hannah Wood said that is no longer a potential location. The board has looked at multiple types of buildings, and options have either not met HUD habitability standards or were unavailable. Whatever location is chosen will be need- and size-appropriate. Wood said the outside of the location will have a, “pleasant, welcoming and discrete exterior.” The CAPS building, she said, is not an option because, “after an analysis and the potential costs to bring it into compliance, it was not a good fit (for the shelter).”

The name of the shelter will be Pathways of Craig. Families will be housed based on what space is available, Wood said, and will meet with a case manager upon using emergency shelter. Thirteen families have been identified by the board in need of shelter. They were referred by various entities, including the school district, the Budget Center, Love INC, Providence Recovery, Boys and Girls Club and the Probation Department in April, according to the Alliance.

When it comes to maintaining a safe environment, guests may be asked to leave the shelter for varying periods of time depending on the severity of the behavior, the Alliance said. Permanent expulsion is an option if warranted. Often, families are leaving unsafe environments to seek safety and stability, the Alliance said, and Pathways will also have a policy against any drug or drug paraphernalia within the shelter.

The Alliance has been questioned about why it hasn’t alerted in writing neighbors to the potential locations. According to the Alliance, on each of the shelter’s potential locations, no zoning changes would have been required, and since there were no zoning changes, no notice was legally required to send to businesses or neighbors within a small radius of the shelter.

The current grant covers the first two years of the shelter’s operation, but when those two years are up, the Alliance said it will look to other grant opportunities. The partnership between HomewardBound and the Alliance will allow HomewardBound to introduce the staff and board in Craig to those who support similar efforts as well as multiple governmental agencies who also provide funding. The HomewardBound grants team will seek out and submit grant applications on behalf of Housing First Alliance while also training the Craig staff and introducing them to funders.

Who is in charge?

The Housing First Alliance of Craig will have direct oversight over the Pathways of Craig location. HomewardBound of the Grand Valley, which is located in Grand Junction, has fiduciary responsibility for oversight and reporting for the Emergency Solutions Grant funds, which are distributed under the umbrella of the CARES Act funding. The Alliance is a sub-grantee of HomewardBound for this specific ESG Grant.

“The reality is that the concerned staff and Board in Craig have minimal experience,” the Alliance said. “That is why we have (we think wisely) sought counsel from those who do. HBGV, as one of the organizations sought out for counsel, offered to serve as our mentor, guide, partner and fiscal agent.”

A staff of five to seven people will be paid by grant funds, and they will be hired by the alliance to fit the needs of the program.

Whom will the shelter serve?

The current plan for the shelter is for families to stay, “as long as it is reasonably necessary for them to find a stable housing situation.” Case managers will assist with preparing families to transition out of the shelter. Guests are not required to show ID, and the shelter will not set preconditions on people who are seeking services. This means the Alliance does not require proof of local residency or the promise to do any of a number of things as preconditions to accessing emergency shelter.

This is what the Alliance calls a “low-barrier” model. It does not mean there are no constraints upon who can enter the shelter. Before entering Pathways, guests will be subjected to a Sex Offender background check. The Alliance will also screen for active intoxication and breathalyze if behavior indicates an individual may not be able to function effectively in a congregate setting. They will also monitor for active COVID symptoms.

“Regarding how we determine if they are lying: observation, conversation, and watching what they do,” Alliance members said. “Dishonesty at some level is likely, but is certain to become evident, and can be addressed accordingly. The other guests are often the best ‘eyes and ears’ of the shelter.”

Pathways will also have community rules that will need to be followed by those who are using emergency services. If those guidelines are not followed, guests will be asked to leave. Guests will be assigned daily chores to contribute to the operation and work with staff toward self-sufficiency.

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