Safe Outdoor Living shed will store sleeping bags and other items for the homeless | News

The Grand County Local Homeless Council is creating a new resource for people who are homeless: an offer of items to survive on the outside, as an interim measure for people who have no other options. Items, such as mattresses and sleeping bags, tents and stoves, will be stored in a shed at the Grand County Public Library and made available to those in need through local service organizations. The hangar was installed on December 3 and the LHC received donations of requested items.

“It’s definitely not a cure, but I think it’s seeing reality and knowing that people have to live this way,” said Liz Donkersloot, Housing Resource Coordinator for the Moab Valley Multicultural Center and Member. of the LHC. She is spearheading the new project and hopes it will be up and running by January.

The idea for the Safe Outdoor Living Supply Shed came from the former VISTA of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, Katie Minehart. Donkersloot said the project was at a standstill for some time as the group searched for a place to house the hangar. In a brainstorming session, the library appeared to be a logical place: it is a welcoming place that many homeless people already frequent to protect themselves from the elements or use the services. It also has longer hours than many service organizations like the MVMC.

Library director Carrie Valdes supported the idea and soon after, the group presented their project to the Moab chapter of the nonprofit 100 Women Who Care. This organization has agreed to donate $ 4,000 to support the Safe Outdoor Living Shed. Some of the money was used to buy the shed, shelves and a lock; the remaining funds will go towards the purchase of supplies or an emergency housing fund.

The LHC has set up an online registry allowing donors to provide articles. Items requested include camping stoves, backpacks, tents, lanterns, headlamps and sleeping bags. The link for the registry is Donors can write down what they plan to donate, purchase the item, and drop it off at the MVMC.

A local network of nonprofits and service providers will be able to offer vouchers to people who need items from the shed, and library staff will be able to help voucher holders access this. that they need. The hangar has limited space, so the LHC starts with requests for four to eight of each item; Donkersloot said they may need to refresh inventory as the items are released.

There is definitely a need for homeless resources in Grand County. Donkersloot said in a Nov. 29 interview with local radio station KZMU that local agencies working with people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are engaged with 111 people in Grand County; 75 of these people are physically homeless and 36 are at risk of becoming homeless. Being “at risk of homelessness,” as the term is used by advocacy groups and policy makers, means that homelessness is imminent within 30 days.

“Looking at the data, the number that comes to my mind the most is that situational homelessness accounts for 90% of our homeless people in Grand County,” Donkersloot said.

‘Situational homelessness’ is distinct from ‘chronic homelessness’. Chronic homelessness is one or more years of homelessness, consecutive or cumulative over a three-year period. Those who are situationally homeless may be homeless for the first time. While stereotypes often marginalize the homeless, in reality they are often deeply engaged in the communities where they live. They may have families, have jobs, be enrolled in school, or be involved in churches in their communities, even if they do not have stable housing. They can live outdoors, in vehicles, in storage units, or on a friend’s couch.

“Roaming in Moab is not like a city, where it’s in your face,” Donkersloot said. “It’s kind of a quiet roaming.”

Many factors can put a person at risk of homelessness, including job loss, illness, loss of a spouse or partner, an increase in rent, or the sale of a rental property by a landlord. In Moab, even people with multiple jobs can struggle to find and keep housing, as the local housing stock does not meet housing needs.

“We all know that housing in Moab is, one, not always available, and two, not always affordable,” Donkersloot said in his Nov. 29 interview with KZMU.

While the Safe Outdoor Living Shed is not a perfect solution, it addresses an immediate need for resources for people experiencing homelessness. Donkersloot is a member of state-level homeless advocacy committees, and she said that when discussing the concept of the shed with members of that group, people seemed unfamiliar with the idea and intrigued. She hopes this can become a model for other rural areas that may be looking for creative stopgaps.

For the SOL hangar in Moab, Donkersloot plans to find someone to paint a sun on the wall, like a play on the project’s sunny acronym. She thanks all those who contributed to the start of the project.

“It has been an incredible community collaboration,” she said.

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