Homeless Coalition mulling a permanent shelter in Cottonwood

Catholic Charities Site Director Carol Quasula

Catholic Charities Site Director Carol Quasula

COTTONWOOD -- The Verde Valley Homeless Coalition Wednesday heard a proposal to acquire the now-vacant former Mingus Center building at 10th and Main Street as a permanent homeless shelter.

Catholic Charities Site Director Carol Quasula said she investigated the purchase when she heard the sale price had plummeted.

Catholic Charities currently operates The Loft drop-in shelter in the space above the charities offices on Main Street in Old Town. While it does not provide an overnight bed, homeless clients can make a hot meal, shower, do laundry, use a computer to apply for work or enjoy some social interaction.

Once a bowling alley, under the Mingus Center operation on about 1.2 acres, the building was converted to a so-called Title 36 facility, intended for mental health services. The Mingus Center has since moved to the Prescott area.

Quasula points out that the 14,700 foot building houses 36 beds with a petition in the center to - perhaps -- separate men from families.

The facility has a commercial kitchen, with medical room, offices and a conference room.

The local program director says Catholic Charities could purchases the facility, but the business officials say the local community will to find a way to fund ongoing operational costs. Quasula points out that her budget for homeless outreach of $70,000 could contribute to that.

Quasula says, "I really don't want it to be "a charities facility'; I would rather see it a "community facility.'"

Other members of the Verde Valley Coalition suggested that there may be an opportunity for grants, such as from APS for electricity or from cities and towns as part of their annual grants for outside services.

Quasula said it could make a "huge difference."

She is organizing a meeting at Catholic Charities for those interested in participating in the project. She is available at 634-4254 at extension 54117.

Safe Parking

Another concept that drew enthusiasm from the Coalition's members meeting Wednesday. The issue was agendized for discussion, but Harvey Grady of Cornucopia, a member of a forum on homeless housing, also suggested the concept was detailed in a Rolling Stone Magazine article on the decline of the Middle Class. The program located in San Diego and the surrounding county is coordinated by the local nonprofit New Beginnings Counseling Center and uses a series of parking lots.

The idea is that often many people do not have a home, but sleep in their vehicle and need a safe place to spend the night, often where an electric outlet is available.

According to the Rolling Stone article:

"Each evening, 150 people in 113 vehicles spend the night in 23 parking lots in Santa Barbara. The lots are part of Safe Parking, a program that offers overnight permits to people living in their vehicles. The nonprofit that runs the program, New Beginnings Counseling Center, requires participants to have a valid driver's license and current registration and insurance.

The number of vehicles per lot ranges from one to 15, and lot hours are generally from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Fraternization among those who sleep in the lots is implicitly discouraged - the fainter the program's presence, the less likely it will provoke complaints from neighboring homes and churches and businesses."

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