The Bridge Emergency Shelter has received a grant to start off its fundraising campaign for a new location.
On Tuesday, the shelter staff sent out a news release to announce they had received a match/challenge grant for up to $20,000 from a member of an out-of-state organization who wished to remain anonymous. They plan to build a new shelter on property they own at 735 N. Park St., near their current location in the Montezuma County Justice Building, which is for sale. But the shelter still needs to raise matching funds for the grant, which the staff hope to do with donations from the community.
Still, the Bridge’s executive director, Laurie Knutson, said this is an important first step.
“As far as I know, we’ve never gotten a challenge or matching grant before,” she said. “It’s very exciting to see that someone believes in what we’re doing.”
On Jan. 30, Montezuma County commissioners voted to put the Justice Building up for sale in preparation for moving court proceedings to the new combined courthouse that is set to be completed this year. Since then, the Bridge board of directors has been planning to move to a new location. The property on North Park Street was already designated for use by a shelter or detox center, and it remains conveniently close to the police station and Hope’s Soup Kitchen in United Methodist Church.
Knutson said she and the rest of the board hope to use the construction project to upgrade their services for the homeless. Early plans for the new shelter call for a two-story building covering about 10,000 square feet, with a temporary shelter and “sobering space” on the first floor and longer-term housing on the second floor.
The new emergency shelter won’t house as many people as the current one, which typically serves about 40 people per night during the winter. Right now the planned first floor will be enough to house 24 men and five women overnight. There will also be room for an additional 14 men and six women in the “sobering space,” which Knutson emphasized is not a medical detox center but just a safe place for intoxicated people to stay while they get sober.
But unlike the current shelter, the plans for the new one include supportive housing. The upper floor will contain small apartments for elderly people and others who can’t afford traditional housing but aren’t struggling with addiction or serious criminal charges. Tenants will be required to pay a small rent, which Knutson said will provide some much-needed income for the Bridge, but they will also have more independence and privacy than if they were staying in the emergency shelter. The Day Labor Center, which operates year-round, will also relocate to the new building.
But the Bridge still has a long way to go before the new shelter becomes a reality. Knutson said it will cost “a lot more than $20,000” to complete the building. The Bridge will accept donations to a matching fund for the grant through the month of June. They also plan to apply for a $1 million Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant later this summer, and they have submitted grant proposals to three other organizations similar to their out-of-state benefactor.
“In a perfect world, if everything goes well, we would hopefully start (construction) in October,” Knutson said. “But there’s a lot that needs to happen before then.”
Right now, she said, an architect is drawing preliminary building plans to include in the DOLA grant application, and she expects to have a more final plan within the next few months. She and the rest of the board hope to be able to bring the project before the planning and zoning commission by September.
“It’s a lot for just a few people to do, but it will be so worth it when we can get rid of homelessness for some people,” she said.