Council denies funds to Homeward Bound

Money to remodel the Grand Valley’s Homeward Bound homeless shelter may come from local residents after Grand Junction city councilors denied funds to the agency for the project.

Homeward Bound had been approved for a $109,971 grant in 2012 to go toward the purchase of a new building. However, the nonprofit group decided to change gears and not immediately purchase a new building, and instead wanted to put the money toward sorely needed improvements at the current shelter, 2853 North Ave.

Councilors locked in a tie vote during Wednesday night’s meeting over whether to approve the federal Community Development Block Grant for the revised plan. A tie vote meant the approval was denied.

“Now we have to step back and embark on our capital campaign,” Executive Director Douglas Karl said after the meeting. “My concern is those facilities are in such disrepair that if we continue operating out of there, we may have to shut down. It’s kind of a shame it went down this path.”

Councilors Marty Chazen, Phyllis Norris and Rick Brainard voted to not fund the dollars to Homeward Bound under the new plan. Mayor Sam Susuras, Bennett Boeschenstein and Jim Doody approved allocating the dollars to the new plan.

Remodeling bathrooms, the kitchen and office space at the shelter is estimated to cost $130,000, Karl said. Restrooms at the facility are not compatible for people with disabilities and the shelter sometimes has guests who arrive in wheelchairs, he said.

Every year, councilors are tasked with allocating federal funds to local community organizations through the Community Development Block Grant application process.

Last year Homeward Bound had planned to purchase the former Grand Valley Power building, 2727 Grand Ave., but those plans fell through. Now, the organization plans to create a shelter specifically for homeless families and house homeless single men in the current shelter. For the past several years during the winter months, the shelter shuttles single men to area churches for the night because of overcrowding.

Councilors Chazen and Norris said they weren’t comfortable funding the shelter’s remodel project when the money was intended and allocated for another purpose. They encouraged Homeward Bound to reapply for grant funds through the process.

“It really is unfair to all the people who applied,” Norris said of changing the nature of how the money would be spent.

Kristin Ashbeck, senior planner and the administrator of Community Development Block Grants for the city of Grand Junction, said after the meeting that the decision by councilors left her in an unusual position. She said she would have to check with an official with the U.S. Department of Housing, the agency that administers the grants, on how to proceed and to find out whether the money would have to be returned to the federal government.

In other news:

■ Councilors voted 5-1 to approve a master plan for the creation of Las Colonias Park. Councilor Marty Chazen voted against it. A plan for the park creates a vision for the 100-acre swath of land near the Colorado River in Grand Junction’s south downtown. Approving a plan does not dedicate money for the park. The complete $13 million plan that is slated in multiple phases includes an amphitheater, restrooms, native grass areas, a boat launch, a dog park, a zipline across the river and other amenities.

■ Also, councilors unanimously approved removing a restriction that vendors locate at least 500 feet from the campus of Colorado Mesa University to sell alcohol.

Students have planned a business that includes selling alcohol at 1230 N. 12th Street, a site which is about 200 feet from the campus.


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