Panel discusses needs of growing homeless ranks in Grand Junction
No one who works with Grand Junction’s homeless knows how to eliminate the problem, but that won’t stop them from trying.
On Saturday, nearly a dozen men and women responsible for feeding the city’s hungry or finding affordable lodging for the homeless met to discuss the programs in place and future services needed for both the hungry and homeless.
October is Poverty Awareness Month in Grand Junction.
The events of the past month culminated with Saturday’s meeting, where the public was invited to participate in a panel discussion about what the city needs to do regarding the increased number of people depending on help for food, clothing and shelter.
“If we had a solution or had it solved, we wouldn’t have to have this meeting,” said Sue Tuffin, director of Mesa County Workforce Center.
“We have a difficult winter ahead of us.”
The numbers support Tuffin’s claims that the months ahead could be difficult for the city’s homeless.
Catholic Outreach has seen a 34 percent increase in the number of people looking to be fed in its soup kitchen compared to last year at the same time, said Sister Karen Bland, executive director of Catholic Outreach.
Of the estimated 22,000 students in School District 51, more than 3.5 percent of them are homeless, and Cathy Haller of District 51 said she knows “there are more.”
Lori Rosendahl, director of operations for the Grand Junction Housing Authority, said more than 2,000 families are on a waiting list for affordable housing, but the housing authority has nothing available to help.
Len Stewart, director of the Mesa County Department of Human Services, told the audience a family of four bringing home less than $45,000 annually in Mesa County struggles to be self-sufficient economically.
Saturday’s speakers said that is where local residents enter the picture.
“We all look to the government to solve this,” Tuffin said. “(But) it has to come from a grass-roots effort.”
Teresa Coons, a City Council member, echoed her words.
She said the majority of Mesa County voters have voted for no new taxes, so the government can only do so much.
The city will continue to work with other local entities to create solutions.
In the interim, people are asked to give what they can and help where they can.
Specifically, there is expected to be an increased need for safe shelters for homeless people this winter. Grand Junction churches in the past have opened their doors because the local shelters already are full.
To get involved, contact Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley at 256-9424 or Grand Valley Peace & Justice at 243-0136.