Lives in transition

Homeless shelter occupies former job center for now

Tracy Johnson, a family and veterans case manager for Homeward Bound, walks through the new temporary shelter for the organization at 29 Road and North Avenue, site of the former Mesa County Workforce Center. Renovation is being done on the regular Homeward Bound shelter, which is nearby on North Avenue in Grand Junction.

Photos by Dean Humphrey/The Daily Sentinel—“It’s working,” said Doug Karl, director of Homeward Bound, of its temporary shelter at 2897 North Ave. The regular shelter will have new flooring, bathrooms and showers and improved administrative work space when it reopens at 2853 North Ave.

All the beds are made and the linens are washed. White folding tables and chairs are set up for the breakfast and dinner meals. Even the military veterans who stay nights at the homeless shelter have some separation to eat, watch some television and sleep in an area blocked off by rows of lockers.

It wasn’t too long ago that the building at 2897 North Ave. housed scores of workers in cubicles, helping to connect employers with potential employees at the former site of the Mesa County Workforce Center.

Now that building, which is owned by Hilltop Community Resources, is a temporary home to Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley, the nonprofit group that operates the Grand Junction Community Homeless Shelter, while its current facility at 2853 North Ave., receives a needed makeover.

“It’s working … it’s working,” Homeward Bound Director Doug Karl said, exhaling and looking out over the makeshift shelter after nearly two weeks of coordinating the move.

Homeward Bound’s current facility is expected to reopen in September with new flooring, bathrooms and showers, improved administrative work space and a renovated intake area to get people inside faster, instead of having long lines in the parking lot. New energy-efficient lighting could help save the facility up to $5,000 per year in electricity costs, Karl said.

There are no showers or kitchen at the temporary site, but organizers have that deficiency covered.

Single men are showering at the current Homeward Bound facility because the bathrooms haven’t been torn up yet. Women and families are showering in the mornings at Lincoln Park Pool before the pool is open to the public.

Dinners and breakfasts are served “picnic style” with disposable plates and plastic cutlery, Karl said.

Fewer people typically seek shelter in the summertime, but the temporary shelter is mostly full, Karl said. All 105 beds are accounted for and the facility is using between 15 and 20 of its 40 mattresses reserved for overflow that folks place on the floor to sleep.

“Maybe it’s the carpeting, but things have been really calm here for some reason,” Karl said about the normally bustling atmosphere at the shelter.

Moving the contents of a shelter is no small feat because many of the items had to be moved the same day. To do that, a number of organizations volunteered their time or moving trucks to haul beds, couches, tables, chairs and other necessary items.

Last week, staff members got the phones hooked up and the Internet rolling.

Grand Valley Transit drivers and taxi cab companies were notified of the new location just in case people attempted to go to the current facility.

Construction work on the current facility, pegged at a cost of $260,000, is being paid for by several grants. Homeward Bound has obtained land off 29 Road to build a family shelter, administrative offices and respite for women with medical problems. After that is completed, Homeward Bound on North Avenue will be a shelter for only single men, Karl said.


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