The Bridge Emergency Shelter was formed 11 years ago in response to multiple deaths from hypothermia during the winter. At that time, there were no seasonal shelters for the homeless in Montezuma County.
The shelter now provides seasonal shelter, breakfast and dinner for approximately 40 homeless men and women a night. Last year, more than 325 people were served during the October-through-April season, utilizing more than 6,000 bed-nights.
The Day Labor Center became part of The Bridge about six years ago in part because the missions of both organizations paralleled each other; to create a supportive and dignified environment for work opportunities. The Day Labor Center assisted 400 who collectively filled over 8,700 labor hours last year.
The location of The Bridge, including the Day Labor Center, is in the old Justice Building, which is owned by Montezuma County. Now with the new Justice Building being constructed, the current location and the future of The Bridge is in jeopardy. Recently, county commissioners announced that they would attempt to sell the current location.
The Bridge budget is just over $220,000, which is composed of grants, city and county support, and, incredibly, donations from well over 500 people. It does not include expenditures for rent and utilities, which are provided by the county. The Bridge contacted commissioners in January to indicate that it would contribute $12,000 annually for its proportionate share of utilities, but commissioners did not respond.
If The Bridge is forced to suspend operations, the homeless in our community will have no choice but to wander in our town’s parks, door fronts and other public places at all hours. Without question, there will be more drug abuse, health issues and death, and the burden on law enforcement, the hospital and other organizations will increase dramatically. Affordable day labor will not be available.
The Bridge board has met with a real estate broker to ascertain if additional, appropriate locations might be available that would meet our needs, but nothing is now available. We have also met with the real estate community to explore locations for sustainable housing, but to date, we have uncovered no possibilities.
We hope the community will band together to let commissioners know that a homeless shelter and job center are a cost-effective, positive and necessary community resource. Also, please come forward with suggestions or possible solutions that will help assist the homeless and make Cortez a generous and compassionate place to live.
Doug Greene board member, The Bridge Emergency Shelter and Day Labor