Organizers working to dispel myths, provide facts about proposed Craig emergency family shelter
Tuesday night meeting saw dozens come out in support and opposition
Conversation continues about Craig’s proposed emergency family shelter, as a community meeting held Tuesday night was intense at times, but the woman leading the initiative felt it was a positive discussion.
“I feel like everyone left with a little more information and better feelings than we came with,” said Hannah Wood, executive director for Housing First Alliance.
Wood’s organization is working to bring a homeless shelter specifically for families with children to Craig since last year. After the process ran into numerous roadblocks earlier this year, Wood found traction with support from the Moffat County Commissioners and, last month, in the form of a $691,000 federal grant through the state’s Department of Local Affairs.
But local community sentiment, which likely contributed in part to Craig City Council’s January non-action on the question of support for the project, has remained divided at best.
That’s why Housing First Alliance held a meeting Tuesday night at the Center of Craig. Wood said about 50 people attended, and “maybe half” were there to express their disapproval.
“I’m proud of everyone that came,” Wood said Wednesday. “Even if they got a little emotional, which we all did, they came, they talked to me in person, and that’s so valuable.”
The purpose of the meeting, as Wood put it, was to dispel myths that have fueled concerns about the potential homeless shelter in town.
“The thing is families experiencing homelessness are already here,” Wood said. “We’re not doing this with the intention of bringing people from out of the region. HomewardBound gave us some statistics that about 85 to 90% of the people they serve in Grand Junction are local.
“We’ve got 13 families we’ve identified that are local here. It’s just not true that families pack up their kids and belongings and move to a new town because there’s a homeless shelter. They want to be around places and people they’re comfortable with.”
These families, Wood said, and surely some others that haven’t been identified, live in campers, tents, cars, hotels, motels and on friends and families’ couches. All of them, as a rule of qualification for help from the program, have school-aged children.
“There will always be opposition to any new project, and I’m expecting people to still have questions an concerns,” Wood said. “That’s OK, and we’ll never have 100% approval. I’m OK with that, as long as people take the time to learn about it instead of spreading misinformation.”
Wood and her group have yet to identify a location for this temporary housing option to be installed. But, grant in hand, they’re looking.
“We’ve looked at apartment complexes, hotels, motels, commercial spaces,” she said. “As well as single-family houses, duplexes, triplexes, four-plexes. Anything.”
The space needs to be able to serve at least the 13 families Housing First Alliance has already identified in town, “plus a little extra — we’re certain more people will come out,” Wood said.
They also want kitchen space, private space, and safety.
“The biggest thing is a safe, private facility that we have community space for kids to study, safe places for kids to be kids, a playground or play area, commercial kitchen, or at least areas for families to prepare meals,” Wood said.
The idea is to break the cycle of poverty, she said, and help move these families into a permanent, positive solution.
“A shelter in general is just an emergency shelter,” Wood said. “It’s not a solution by any means, but it’s an opening of a door to a new life these families would not have the opportunity to access. It’s a way to move them toward stability.”
Wood feels her movement gaining some slow traction in Craig. A May meeting with City Council went much better than the one in January.
“Everyone was really on board and more supportive of the new model (serving families instead of individuals),” Wood said. “Good questions, and I feel we answered them.”
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