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Group asking for $30K for homeless shelter

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Darianne Johnson, right, and Gloria Fichter-Rau, co-chairwomen of the Southwest Homeless Coalition, speak to Dickinson City commissioners about the need for a homeless shelter during a meeting at City Hall Thursday.

If the city doesn't allocate funds toward Dickinson's homeless problem "the citizens of Dickinson better be prepared to have people sleeping on their lawns," Darianne Johnson, Southwest Homeless Coalition co-chairwoman, said Thursday afternoon.

Johnson, who is also the executive director of the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center, attended a special City Commission meeting Thursday to ask for $30,000 to help fund a homeless shelter.

The city doesn't have a homeless shelter and Johnson has had to turn people away from the domestic violence and rape shelter because it's full.

Most recently, the shelter had to say no to a mother and her 2-year-old child, she said.

"We are able to house 18 people at a time and we have been up to 25," Johnson told commissioners. "Today I'm standing here to say we can't do it anymore. We're turning people away for the first time and it's heartbreaking."

They have also had to have homeless people move out of the shelter to make room for domestic violence and rape victims, since that is their priority, Johnson said.

The owner of a Dickinson home may be willing to rent it for $1,050 a month as a homeless shelter, but the home is for sale and a decision needs to be made quickly, Johnson said.

Commissioner Carson Steiner asked if the city could purchase the house for the coalition.

Because there are only four staff members at DVRCC to help at a shelter and because of grants they're bound by, Johnson said it's something they couldn't undertake now.

Commissioner Gene Jackson asked if down the road they would like to own a second shelter.

"I think this would just be a starting step," said Gloria Fichter-Rau, co-chairwoman of the coalition and direct service coordinator with DVRCC. "I don't know if we want to jump right in and buy a property right now and have us be responsible for it."

If a homeless shelter was designated, it couldn't be used for DVRCC, do to security reasons, Johnson added.

She estimated they could fit three beds in each bedroom and six or seven beds in the basement.

Commissioner Rod Landblom pointed out zoning of the home may have to be changed to house that many people.

"It's going to be 'in my backyard' type of reaction out there," Landblom said.

Commissioners also discussed whether it would be best to address the problem before budget time. Since Thursday's meeting was set for annual subsidies, the commission has added the matter to Monday's City Commission meeting agenda. The meeting is at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall.

Johnson and Fichter-Rau also asked for $15,000 for the DVRCC.