Bridge Emergency Shelter seeks temporary home

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 10:48 PM
The plot of land where The Bridge Emergency Shelter’s new home will be built later this year.

The Bridge Emergency Shelter has found itself in limbo again as the Children’s Kiva Montessori School plans to move into its location this fall.

Members of the homeless shelter’s board of directors attended a Cortez City Council workshop on Tuesday to ask for help in finding a temporary location. The Bridge Emergency Shelter plans to break ground on a new building in July, but board member Doug Greene said it likely won’t be finished until February. The Kiva Montessori School has outlined plans to move into The Bridge’s current location in the old Montezuma County Justice Building by August, which would leave the shelter homeless for half its season.

On April 3 ,the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit that would allow the Kiva to move into the building, located at 601 N. Mildred Road. The permit goes before the council for final approval on April 24.

But The Bridge’s executive director, Laurie Knutson, said she hasn’t been able to find out whether the school has purchased the building yet, or when the Montezuma County government wants the shelter to vacate the premises. She said the county originally promised to notify The Bridge if there was a prospective buyer for its building, but that hasn’t happened.

“Our shelter season ends in 2½ weeks,” she said. “I don’t know if, the next week, a new owner wants us out. I don’t know how we would make that happen.”

Greene said the shelter has asked the owners of several vacant or soon-to-be vacant buildings around town if they would be willing to let The Bridge use their space for a few months, but for one reason or another, none of them have worked out yet. Knutson said the directors’ uncertainty about when they’ll need a new facility is making it even more difficult to find one. She and Greene asked for ideas from the city on where to move the shelter.

City Manager Shane Hale said finding a place to put dozens of people per night throughout the winter would be “a tall order” in Cortez. But he offered to email the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners in support of The Bridge, and he recommended that the shelter’s leaders put together a list of what they need in a building so the city could help them search for a location.

“This isn’t just a Bridge problem, it’s a community problem,” he said. “We have the Bridge because we have homeless people, and we don’t want people freezing to death in the park.”

Knutson said The Bridge shelters an average of 43 people per night during its open season, but more than 50 people sleep there some nights. It also runs a Day Labor Center to help unemployed people find temporary work, which she said usually serves about 35 people per day. The shelter is open every night from Oct. 10 through April 28.

Knutson said on Wednesday she was grateful for the city’s support, but she said she wouldn’t have details about what’s next for the shelter until after its board of directors meets on Thursday. She added that she plans to bring her concerns to the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Monday.

The shelter has struggled to establish communication with the county government throughout the sale of the Justice Building. When the county commissioners voted to put the building up for sale in January 2017, Bridge leaders said they weren’t notified until after the vote.

The Kiva Montessori School’s head of school, Susan Likes, and county commissioners Larry Don Suckla and Keenan Ertel did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.