COTTONWOOD – The overnight, cold-weather homeless shelter in Cottonwood will open Sunday night, after years of different attempts to help the homeless problem in the Verde Valley.
“We’ve been given the OK to open the shelter and we’ll do so Sunday night,” according to Verde Valley Homeless Coalition Chairperson Raena Avalon on Friday.
The shelter is for 20 people and will be open when temperatures drop below 35 degrees.
However, because the decision based on the forecast is made 48 hours ahead, the shelter will open on Sunday even if it hovers above the 35-degree mark, Avalon said. “So we are going to open.”
The group had hoped to open the shelter several weeks ago, but they were still working out details with the building owner of Y.E.S. The Arc in Cottonwood, which has offered to open its cafeteria for use as a temporary emergency shelter on cold nights.
On Friday, Avalon said they worked out the details with the building’s owner and they are now in agreement and “all set.”
VVHC said it feels confident it can staff the facility with a sufficient number of properly trained volunteers, according to information shared at a Jan. 16 Cottonwood City Council meeting.
In addition, Spectrum Healthcare in Cottonwood has agreed to provide training to the volunteers on how to address mental health issues they may encounter during their volunteer time.
Avalon said she will be sending out notices Friday to the Old Town Mission, the library, the recreation center, the police and fire departments and other sources who can spread the word to the homeless that the shelter will open on Sunday.
People can show up Sunday night after 6 p.m. and will have to leave between 6:30 and 7 a.m. Monday, she said. Avalon said people should not come before 6 p.m. and they must be sober and have to clean up in the morning.
There is no transportation right now, but Avalon hoped the VVHC could raise funds for a van eventually to pick up people around the Verde Valley, especially Sedona.
“We don’t have transportation, but hopefully by next year we will,” she added.
The VVHC is a non-profit group and are planning to open the front door office in the Catholic Charities building on Main Street this month. It’s a one-stop place for homeless people seeking housing and be directed to the proper referrals, she said.
The group is also looking for a location for a homeless day-center in Cottonwood for the summer, Avalon said. In the summer, the homeless have the opposite problem in that it is so hot, so they need shelter during the day.
Avalon said no location has been found for the day drop-in center, but it won’t be the same building as the current overnight shelter.
There has been a lot of interest from surrounding towns and down the line the group has talked about doing something in Camp Verde or Sedona, Avalon said.
As for Sunday, Avalon doesn’t know how many homeless will show up but she is working to get the word out now.
“I’ve gotten so many calls,” said Avalon.