Montezuma businesses, nonprofits show support for shelter

Friday, June 2, 2017 5:39 PM
The plot of land where the new Bridge Emergency Shelter will be built later this year, if all goes according to plan. The new Montezuma County justice building is visible nearby.

The next step in the Bridge Emergency Shelter’s bid for a better building is underway, with the help of the Cortez community.

On Thursday, Laurie Knutson, the shelter’s executive director, submitted an application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for a $1.6 million grant, which she hopes to use to build the new shelter on 735 N. Park St. But before she submitted the application, she held a public meeting on Wednesday in the current shelter to get feedback from the public on the project. Only a handful of people attended, but they all voiced whole-hearted support for the grant application and the location.

“We definitely need this service,” Terri Wheeler, executive director of the Cortez Housing Authority, said. “You must have (a shelter) in your community.”

She also applauded the Bridge’s plan to build transitional housing on the second floor for people who are on the path away from homelessness.

Knutson provided attendees at the meeting with a preliminary layout of the new shelter, provided by Michael Eberspacher of the Durango-based RMBA architectural firm. It showed several apartments on the second floor, some with two or three bedrooms, as well as a laundromat. The first-floor layout looked similar to the current one, with smaller rooms for 24 people to stay overnight during the winter, but it also includes a vestibule where early visitors can wait for the shelter to open during especially cold weather. Like the current shelter, it will have a “sobering space” for intoxicated guests, separate from the main bedrooms.

There will also be an accessible long-term housing unit on the first floor for people with limited mobility.

Janine Denney, an architect who recently moved into the Cortez area, said she thought the design for the building looked great. Knutson said she wasn’t ready to make the layout available to the public until she sent it to DOLA, though.

She wasn’t sure when she would hear back from DOLA about the grant, but she expected it to be sometime in late summer. Meanwhile, the shelter recently received a $20,000 challenge grant from an out-of-county organization, and Knutson said they’re well on their way to matching the funds with local donations. She said she had received several generous donations from individuals during the past few weeks, as well as pledges to donate from at least 12 businesses in the area.

“We’ve already gotten three $500 checks from people we’ve never heard of, that are outside our mailing list,” she said.

The shelter will continue to accept donations to the matching grant fund through the month of June.