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The Bridge begins construction on new shelter

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Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 9:57 AM
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday in Cortez for a new facility being built by The Bridge, a homeless shelter and day labor center. Represented are Weeminuche Construction, Department of Local Affairs, Ute Mountain Ute tribal council and The Bridge officials.
Laurie Knutson, executive director of The Bridge homeless shelter, tells the story of the 12-year-old organization and the additional services it will offer at the new facility, including 11 transitional housing apartments.
Part of a site plan for the new Bridge Emergency Shelter on 735 N. Park St. in Cortez.

The Bridge homeless shelter broke ground Thursday on a new $2.1 million facility at 735 N. Park St. in Cortez.

The new building will have an overnight shelter on the first floor for up to 26 people and a sobering space for up to 15 people. The second floor will have transitional apartments that can house 24 formerly homeless people in 11 one- and two two-bedroom apartments.

The new facility is the first of its kind in Colorado that includes a shelter, a day labor center and transitional housing under one roof. The Bridge previously was located in the old Justice Building.

“The day we have been waiting for is finally here, and it is only because of the efforts of a lot of people,” Laurie Knutson, executive director of The Bridge, said during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. Weeminuche Construction, of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, was contracted to build the facility, expected to be completed and opened in summer 2019.

Local and state officials spoke at the ceremony, then the golden shovel moved the symbolic first dirt at the .8-acre site located next door to the Montezuma County Combined Courthouse.

The Bridge shelter has come a long way, said Cortez Mayor Karen Sheek, since it was first organized by local volunteers in 2006 after a homeless man froze to death in a city park during winter.

“It has helped thousands in need get back on their feet by providing a safe place to sleep and a hot meal on a cold night,” Sheek said.

A key component is the transitional housing that will be available at reduced rent for those already working toward independent living, Knutson said. Life skills and other support services will be provided, and the Cortez Day Labor Center will be on site, which The Bridge took over in 2010.

Funding for the project includes $1.2 million in grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The agency also provided a $750,000 low-interest loan, with payments to be made from transitional housing rent revenue.

Local contributions from 80 individuals chipped in $185,000, and project fundraising efforts continue. The land was donated by Montezuma County and Cortez Addiction Recovery Center.

“When we toured the shelter, we could see the housing need and this new facility will be ideally suited to serve this community,” said Housing Development Specialist Andrew Atchley, of DOLA.

Funding for 1,000 affordable housing projects across the state came in part from $15.3 million in marijuana taxes, he said.

“We celebrate the cooperation between the state, county and city governments to make this a success,” said Doug Greene, chairman of The Bridge. “The new Bridge Shelter will be functional, not fancy.”

The shelter was originally volunteer-run, but now has 13 full- and part-time employees, plus 40 volunteers. It has an annual budget of $200,000 per year.

“For the first time, we can offer the homeless, affordable transitional housing so they can make their way back to a normal life,” Knutson said.

The Bridge lost its previous home at the Justice Center after it was sold recently. It is seeking a conditional use permit from the city of Cortez to operate the shelter over the winter at a local church during construction of the new facility.

For more information, visit The Bridge’s website at thebridgeshelter.org or call 565-9808.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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