Homeless shelter to closeAmid a tight housing market and population influx, one of Dickinson’s homeless shelters will close as of June 30.
Amid a tight housing market and population influx, one of Dickinson’s homeless shelters will close as of June 30.
“I think it’s going to impact us more than anyone realizes,” said Southwest Homeless Coalition Chairperson Darianne Johnson, who also serves Dickinson’s Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center. “As well as there not being a homeless shelter now, there is going to be very tight motel room space, so any funding that would possibly provide for a motel stay, that’s going to be harder and harder to do because the motels have also been bought up by the oil companies.”
Johnson said when agencies are contacting hotels to find rooms for those in need, it has been difficult to locate available space.
Michelle Orton, client services director at Community Action Partnership in Dickinson, the agency operating the adult homeless shelter, said funding and staff sizes are main contributors to the closure.
“It was something that we felt, as you take a look at the list of programs we’re providing here, there’s so many other programs right now that need our attention, that the shelter, we felt we weren’t meeting the needs of a true homeless individual,” Orton said.
With services beginning in 1990, the CAP homeless shelter consists of two motel rooms, and in the past five years, the agency has switched motels three times.
“Rent is increasing, so we have limited funding to pay just for the rent alone of these rooms at the motel,” Orton said. “We just don’t have the means for it anymore. We’re adding new programs to the agency plus fewer staff.”
Last year, the shelter served 42 individuals, and clients have the option of staying one week to a maximum of five weeks.
Once a client has used the shelter, he or she cannot come back for a year.
“The problem we’re seeing now is the five-week stay isn’t long enough because housing is so limited right now in Dickinson that they’re pretty much in the same situation — once they leave our shelter they have nowhere to go,” Orton said.
Orton said the community may not notice a big impact from the shelter closing because those in most need of assistance most likely would not qualify for CAP shelter.
While numbers at the shelter have slightly decreased, Orton said it could be because other agencies are assisting families and because typically the individuals CAP houses are single.
Is a solution in sight?
“This, of course, is going to leave a gap for services in the city of Dickinson,” said City Administrator Shawn Kessel at a May City Commission meeting.
Johnson said SWHC has started discussing what options there may be to replace the shelter.
“As things stand right now, there is nothing in the process,” Johnson said. “The biggest part of funding a homeless shelter is going to be paying for the staff.”
Johnson said opening a new shelter will take work of multiple entities.
“This is the downfall, nobody’s willing to take the bull by the horns and say, ‘OK we need a homeless shelter. What are we going to do, community?’”
Orton said she doesn’t think any area entities applied for state funds previously used to pay for the shelter.
“I don’t think the shelter services are going to continue once we’re done on June 30,” Orton said. “That’s going to be one of the biggest issues, is trying to find a place to have the shelter and afford what you will be charged to keep two rooms for the year.”
At this time, there seems to be no place a person can contact for homeless assistance.
With CAP’s homeless shelter closing, the lines of communication for an individual dealing with a homeless issue are a bit skewed.
“A lot of times what happened was Community Action was the first call made and then from there the referrals were made,” Johnson said. “And now they’re kind of being taken out of that role because they don’t have the homeless shelter anymore.”
Johnson said there is ongoing conversation within SWHC about bringing the issue to City Commission, but it’s in the beginning stages.
“Unfortunately, it is an issue and one that we have to address,” Kessel said, adding the city will be working with the SWHC to find a solution.
Kessel said not to rule out the city financially assisting as a solution.
“We’ve reviewed our priorities a great deal, so there’s no secret that the capital needs budget is huge and it’s just a matter of where it’s going to fit within the current priority system,” Kessel said.