Residents near a proposed homeless services facility are questioning its intended location, which they fear will create traffic risks and adversely affect their neighborhood.
“It’s about the safety of these people, too. …. We do want to help the homeless,” North Ninth Street-area resident Mickeye Garduno said in a recent interview.
She’s calling on her neighbors, though, to stand up and be heard at the City of Montrose planning commission meeting July 10, when Montrose Lighthouse’s zoning application for the intended facility is taken up.
Montrose Lighthouse Inc., with Shepherd’s Hand and Montrose Jail Ministries, is in the process of purchasing the Powderhorn Industries building at 931 N. Park Avenue. The building is already in an area zoned as light industrial, which already allows the groups to carry on soup kitchen-type activities, but they have applied for commercial zoning, which would allow for people to be lodged at the building overnight.
The applicants have previously said an overnight shelter is not on the immediate horizon, as the building would have to be upgraded and money would have to be raised before that could occur.
But Garduno and her neighbors maintain concerns. In letters and in conversations with the Montrose Daily Press, they spoke of the irrigation ditch that runs between the Powderhorn property and yards on North Ninth, in which human waste as surfaced; security; possible traffic dangers as the Maverik fueling station is built, and their properties.
“I think that we definitely want to help people out and do our share for people in our community. We want to do that with something that is a complete plan, not halfway thought through,” Zach Proctor, whose Kinikin Processing is a stone’s throw from the Powderhorn building, said.
“To me, that kitchen is one step, but it’s not completing what we need to do.”
In a letter, resident Aaron Hill said the community “absolutely” should address and recognize the issues and needs for services for the homeless population, which is increasing.
That population includes a variety of people, from families fallen on hard times, to addicts and the mentally ill, he said.
“Services need to include all aspects of this population. The current proposal of location and services may address the needs of the homeless population, but it does not address the needs of this neighborhood,” Hill said.
Garey Martinez of Shepherd’s Hand previously said the idea is to create a facility through which homelessness could be addressed at a community level, and bring in multiple agencies that can help. Hill’s letter acknowledged that, but questions whether the Powderhorn building is large enough, and asked what other community organizations are supporting the venture.
Martinez formerly operated Shepherd’s Hand seven days a week at the Mexican American Development Association building, also in northern Montrose, but on the other side of Townsend Avenue from Powderhorn.
There, he served hot meals to those in need, as well as gave them a place to take a shower, do laundry, store items and use a phone or computer. Shepherd’s Hand left MADA in February, but Martinez has continued some of its services.
Separately, Lighthouse has two more winter seasons during which it can operate an overnight, emergency shelter at the former Brown Center, located by the animal shelter and far from downtown services. Lighthouse sub-leases the city-owned facility during colder months; during the growing season, it is leased to provide farmworker housing.
Martinez on Friday rejected the notion that the Powderhorn location was chosen at random and without forethought. It is, he said, centrally located and has what is needed.
“It’s not one where we’re grasping at straws. It was thought out and planned,” he said. “This isn’t a haphazard thing. Hundreds of hours and numerous people have put a lot of effort into bringing this where it is and it is not complete.”
The building’s sale has not closed; Shepherd’s Hand and the other applicants continue due diligence to make sure it is appropriate, Martinez said.
Garduno, Hill and Proctor all asked where people who were fed meals at the Powderhorn site would go when not receiving food or services — and who would monitor the surrounding area for safety, especially as petty crimes and vandalism are being seen more and more? Garduno and Hill referenced those, although, added Garduno: “I don’t want to put all the blame on the homeless.”
Martinez said that people who were served food at the former MADA location were allowed to be onsite during the day, while at the Brown Center location, they were transported out to MADA each morning. The guests had to abide by rules at both locations and if they did not, they were banned.
“They already have a homeless issue. They are going to have a homeless issue with or without Shepherd’s Hand or Lighthouse. Do you want a controlled homeless issue or an uncontrolled homeless issue?” Martinez said.
The Brown Center and MADA sites had security cameras inside and out; those would be in place at the Powderhorn building, too, he said. Martinez also said he has spoken with police, who will make regular patrols.
“Actually, we’re probably going to have a better system of looking at what the homeless are doing, as opposed to hit and miss,” he said.
The North Ninth neighbors expressed dismay that they weren’t told about the plans, but instead learned of them through word of mouth, and, per Garduno, conversations with Kinikin Processing as the result of the real estate deal.
“To this day, we have not been presented with any plan about what times the facility will be open and closed, or even with specifics on what type of services will be offered,” she said.
Martinez said there was no attempt at secrecy; that he had spoken with the processing business; one of his partners attempted to reach nearby residents, and if neighbors did not know, it wasn’t because the applicants deliberately tried to hide it from them.
“We’re not trying to do anything behind anybody’s back,” he said.
Garduno and the others said they appreciate what Shepherd’s Hand and Lighthouse try to do for homeless people — but the responsibility should not be left just to the charities.
“They should not be the only ones shouldering this community issue. The city, county and citizens need to be involved in creating something that is viable, meaningful and effective for the long term,” Hill said in his letter.
“The city needs to come up with a longterm goal,” Proctor said, including by determining one location for resources.
“Whether in my backyard or across town doesn’t matter, but we need to come up with a plan that makes sense,” he said. “Just feeding them at a spot in town, we’re not achieving anything. The city needs to sit down and address the problem … figure out a plan and a spot.”
Hill’s letter called for services based on models shown to be effective elsewhere, validated through research and treatment models. Although offering food, showers and support is critical, such services are “inadequate” for addressing the bigger issue.
“Whether we as a community like it or not, homelessness is a problem that is here to stay. Let’s find a location with the umbrella of services offered that truly represents what our community can build. … The current proposal does not embrace the whole community, specifically the north side of town,” Hill wrote.
“It’s not just their (charities’) problem, but the city’s problem and the city needs to address that jointly and come up with a plan,” Proctor said.
Controlling homelessness wouldn’t be an issue “if more prudent planning and community support was implemented,” Garduno said in a letter.
“We want a solution, not a haphazardly placed facility. …. Yes, homelessness needs to be addressed as it is a devastation to the human race. But is it just to jeopardize the well-being of long standing community members in the process? A thought-out resolution increases the edification of everyone, contrary to what is being done here.”
Martinez agreed the problem isn’t going away on its own, but said offering services at a central location is what Shepherd’s Hand and the other charities involved in the zoning application are trying to do. Lighthouse, registered as a secular nonprofit, is willing to address the matter with its funds, volunteers and local agencies, he said.
Martinez agreed with Hill — there are different types of people in the homeless population: Transients who panhandle on local streets; the local and situationally homeless; even homeless students with nowhere to eat when school isn’t in session.
“We’ve got a large homeless population broken into different segments. That’s what Lighthouse is all about — addressing the homeless with a need, whether it’s fixed or in transition. There’s a major homelessness issue in Montrose and it needs to be addressed. Lighthouse is willing,” Martinez said.
“We have everything we need except, right now, community support and the city approval to do what we need to do, where we need to do it. We’re not demanding that. We’re asking for it.”
Added Martinez: “All we’re looking for is for the city and residents to enable use to help address a problem that is not going away.
“Even if we got the zoning change tomorrow, we can’t do anything (immediately) for housing people. We don’t have the money at this point. This is why we’re looking at the Brown Center for at least the next two years.”
Lighthouse is asking for a zoning change now, so that it’s prepared for the future, Martinez said.
“I can see there are concerns, and concerns that can be addressed in a constructive and positive way,” he said.
Garduno urged her neighbors to attend the city planning commission meeting at 5 p.m. July 10. The meeting is at City Council chambers in the Elks Civic Building, 107 S. Cascade Ave. (upstairs).
“What is the answer? I think everyone wants to help homeless people. … We don’t want to be mad at Shepherd’s Hand and soup kitchens, because those are all good things,” she said.
“If this was in your backyard, how would you protect the value of your home and help homeless people at the same time? That’s why we want people to come to the meeting.”
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.