Drop-in homeless center opens in Cottonwood

A man sits on a couch at the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition’s new drop-in center. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

A man sits on a couch at the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition’s new drop-in center. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Raena Avalon’s smile was as warm as the Arizona sunshine as she greeted another person off the street at Cottonwood’s new drop-in center for the homeless.

The temperature was over 100-degrees outside, but inside, it was the cool air that provided refuge for local the homeless population.

“It’s been a long-time coming,” Avalon said

The executive director of the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition said the opening of the drop-in center on Monday was low-key with some balloons and food, but no ribbon cutting.

The drop-in shelter will be open Monday to Friday 1-5 p.m., and intends to get homeless citizens off the streets during the hottest part of the day in order to avoid health hazards such as dehydration and stroke.

The Cottonwood City Council earlier this year approved $12,000 for the drop-in center at 14 S. Main Street next to the Circle K.

The money will cover the rent, electricity, water and taxes. The furniture came from the Old Town Mission and two volunteers will be working when the center is open.  Avalon will also be there to do case management and determine a person’s need for services. A computer is available for job searches.

The timing is set up so people who go to the Old Town Mission at noon for lunch or a shower, can come down to the drop-in center in the afternoon,. There are no over-night missions in Cottonwood or Sedona.

“We’re going to do life-coaching. Goodwill is going to come here one-day a week and do resume building and job searches,” she said,

The VVHC has an agreement to use a building at Y.E.S., the Arc for a winter emergency shelter on Willard Street when temperatures drop below 35 degrees.

Avalon said that they are looking at using the Willard Street building as an option next winter or possibly the new drop-in center, but that has not been determined yet.

The drop in center can hold about 20 people, she said. There’s water, coffee and an outside smoking patio.

Homeless people are currently going to the Cottonwood Library or the Cottonwood Recreation Center to escape these dangerous temperatures, Avalon said. The drop-in center offers an alternative.

Meanwhile, the coalition has opened a new service at Catholic Charities Community Services, 736 N. Main St, called the Front Door, which is a gateway for homeless people to find shelter and services.

The Front Door sees about three to five people a day and operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

“It’s a one-stop place for the homeless,” who are seeking housing and services, she said.

The homeless people register at the Front Door and it puts them into a data base.  Homeless housing providers meet and discuss their cases and determine how they can help them.

Some of the organizations include Spectrum, Catholic Charities, Verde Valley Sanctuary, Angie’s House and others.

Avalon said she spread the word about the new drop-in center through these agencies, the Old Town Mission and word-of-mouth.

Most people who have visited the drop-in center during the first two days don’t stay the entire four hours, Avalon said. They come and go.

The Verde Valley Homeless Coalition formalized its organization in December of 2015 after the exposure death of an area transient who was found lying in a vacant lot near South Main Street in Cottonwood.

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