Sun, Dec. 15

Homeless group seeks new cold-weather shelter in Cottonwood


Raena Avalon wants to use her day shelter for an overnight shelter for 10 people on Main Street in Cottonwood. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Raena Avalon has had success sheltering Cottonwood’s homeless population.

About 20 homeless gather in her day-shelter on Main Street for relief from street life for a few hours of respite, socialization and help with getting permanent housing and behavioral and medical assistance.

But the hours of the day-shelter are limited by the agreement with the city, so Avalon is going to the Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission Monday to get the hours expanded.

Shelter items needed

● Full-sized toiletries

● Warm socks,

● Underwear

● Hats

● Gloves

● Shoes and boots – new or used in decent condition and in larger sizes to make some gift bags.

Avalon wants to use the Main Street day-shelter for an overnight shelter for up to 10 homeless people when the temperatures drop below 35 degrees.

Last year, the organization was using a building at Y.E.S., the Arc on Willard Street in Cottonwood, for an emergency cold-weather shelter. But it wasn’t opened until March and its location was problematic for many homeless people, said Avalon.

The new Main Street day shelter was originally opened last August as a hot-weather shelter to provide a cool respite and a gateway for other services such as housing and jobs.

Cottonwood P&Z will consider the request to change the hours of the shelter, Avalon said. Right now the shelter can only be open from 1-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, according to the agreement with the city.

A change in the hours would let the shelter open when the temperatures are below 35 degrees or to remain open during the weekend, Avalon pointed out.

 Currently, a city ordinance only allows them to shelter homeless people overnight when the temperatures are below 35 degrees, so that would restrict the shelter from becoming a full-time facility even if the hours were expanded by P&Z, said Avalon.

 Avalon said the group also needs more volunteers and funding to help run the center.

“Our rent is paid,” Avalon said. “But we have expenses. So we need donations from the community.”

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.

“We’re going to be open Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day,” Avalon said. So the shelter could use full-sized toiletries, warm socks, underwear, hats, gloves and especially shoes and boots – new or used in decent condition and in larger sizes to make some gift bags.

The VVHC still has the option of going back to the Y.E.S., the Arc for the cold-weather homeless shelter, but Avalon said, “I think it’s too far out for people to travel. We would like to do it here.”

Y.E.S. the Arc, which had room for 20 people, is not currently being utilized this fall and winter until the new shelter option is considered.

Avalon said the organization will only need the approval of P&Z at Monday night’s meeting for the change in hours. The city council approved the cold-weather shelter ordinance last year, she said.

Homeless people seeking overnight shelter will have to sign in at 6 p.m. and be out of the shelter by 7 a.m., have respect for staff and rules and no alcohol or drugs are allowed. “The first 10 people in line would come in,” she said. “We have a long list of rules and we have two people on staff.”

She said that even though there would not be showers, they are trying to get some food for the overnight shelter.

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.

 Avalon said Tuesday night was below 35 degrees in Cottonwood. The National Weather Service stated it was 33 degrees Wednesday night in Cottonwood.

The conditional use permit meeting with P&Z is Monday night in the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m., Avalon said.

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