When HomewardBound of the Grand Valley began fundraising for a new shelter, St. Mary’s Health donated $25,000 for the land. Now with the construction complete and a new shelter up and running, their commitment to the organization continues with a $300,000 investment over the next three years.

“2020 has been an incredibly chaotic year. But, in that chaos, there have been two surprises: No. 1, we were able to complete construction for the shelter. and No. 2, how generous people of the Grand Valley have been during this time,” said Bill Wade, board chair of HomewardBound of the Grand Valley.

The 18,667-square-foot facility opened this summer, offering a place for families in the community to sleep and have a meal. It includes 140 beds for women and families, as well as people in recovery for substance abuse, and is equipped with a children’s library, play areas, family wellness center, laundry services and a commercial kitchen. It also offers educational and training programs.

Wade said about 30 families are staying at the shelter.

With the new facility, staff have more control and flexibility. The old shelter, about 7,500 square feet, proved to be too small for the population it needed to support at times.

“We moved families and women to the new shelter, allowing us to use the old facility for any individuals who need a bed,” he said. “This will help a great deal with the overflow population.”

Individuals without children who may be suffering from substance abuse and drinking problems can now be sent to one facility, with families, younger children and those in recovery at the other.

The Grand Junction Community Homeless Shelter first formed in 1998 by a coalition that included the Grand Junction Housing Authority, local churches and other nonprofit organizations in response to a critical need for winter shelter in the community, according to its website. Today, HomewardBound operates as an independent nonprofit and is the only year-round homeless shelter within a 200 mile-radius of Grand Junction.

The opening of the shelter comes at the perfect time, as the pandemic has only exacerbated the community’s need for HomewardBound.

From September 2019 to September 2020, HomewardBound’s services have increased substantially with 28% more meals served and 33% more families sheltered.

Wade said they have seen an increase in situational homelessness since March, with people losing their residence or job and needing a place to stay.

He said that they’ve added resources necessary to better handle an outbreak such as isolation pods.

“If somebody had asked me how I expected 2020 to go when things started, I would have expected a large outbreak within this population. But, we’ve managed to get through it, so far,” Wade said.

PARTNERSHIP WITH ST. MARY’S

Wade said that while HomewardBound works with many community partners to serve the homeless, none have been a more critical partner than St. Mary’s Health.

In the midst of a global health pandemic, its commitment to the organization has not wavered.

“Our organization’s missions have always been in alignment,” said St. Mary’s Medical Center President Bryan Johnson, in a press release. “Since their inception, we have worked closely to do what we can to support their programs. This continued collaboration led not only to the $300,000 donation, but also to our Food Recovery Program, laundry service contribution and our assistance in the Pathways Family Wellness Center.”

St. Mary’s created a Food Recovery Program in September 2019 to benefit HomewardBound.

During its first year, the program provided 7,100 pounds of food — the equivalent of about 4,260 meals. The food typically consists of prepackaged goods including soups, salads and sandwiches made fresh daily at St. Mary’s and is valued at just under $10,000, according to the press release.

For more than 13 years, St. Mary’s has also provided laundry service three days a week for linens used at HomewardBound. This service saves the organization an estimated $30,000 a year.

“I honestly don’t know where we’d be without the generosity of St. Mary’s,” HomewardBound Executive Director Greg Moore said in a press release. “We are able to accomplish so much more and help more people because of their donations of money, food and time.”

With the opening of the Pathways Family Shelter comes the Pathways Family Wellness Center, which is slated to open in November. The clinic will offer primary and behavioral health diagnostic treatment and respite services onsite and will be staffed with health care professionals.

“It’s a win-win for us. Oftentimes, when a homeless individual is discharged from the hospital, they need a safe place to go to continue on their road to recovery. They no longer need the acute care that is provided by St. Mary’s Medical Center, but they do still require care and oversight.

“The wellness center will help to bridge the gap, while at the same time offering preventative care to hopefully eliminate the need for a future emergency room visit,” Johnson said.

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