from Rev. Cindy Parker, Church of the Red Rocks UCC:
About a year ago when our Witness for Justice Committee was rejuvenating itself, we decided to focus on just one issue and try to make a difference for that issue. We chose homelessness. We started a process to help educate ourselves and members of the congregation about homelessness.
Three months into this effort, we found out that the city of Sedona would be awarding a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We had already learned that there are many faces of homelessness - young & old, male & female, addicted & sober, able bodied & not, mentally stable & not, homeless by choice & not, every race, etc., etc. The spectrum is way too broad for our committee to grasp, let alone address. Then we learned that, as of last December, there were 27 homeless children in 18 families within our Sedona school district. So we made two major decisions. (1) Let's do something to address the most vulnerable homeless population - the children, and (2) let's apply for the CDBG grant. Our goal would be to provide transitional housing for homeless families with children and, if space is available, for elderly persons.
There were four applicants for the grant and we were selected as the recipient! The amount of the grant will be approximately $330,000. On top of that, we have raised over $90,000 in additional funds for the project. It's not a lot of money for the project but we think we can make it work. Our plans are to purchase about 1/4 acre in Sedona and install a triplex consisting of three factory-built homes. The homes will have two bedrooms and two baths, each of which will be used by one family. The families will share the kitchen and living room. We will be able to serve six families at any given time, and estimate that we will serve 50-100 people per year.
It will certainly not be luxurious but will be much better than living in a tent or out of a car. We plan on this being temporary housing while the families develop a transition plan to get into more permanent quarters. To that end, we are working with several social and health service organizations as well as food providers. We are also reaching out to other faith groups and community organizations to join our effort. As someone noted, the Church of the Red Rocks is the midwife giving birth to the project but we need the entire community to bring it to fruition. Our project and facility will be named Hope House of Sedona.
We have filed our formal application with HUD and, if all goes according to plan, will receive the grant money by the end of the year. We intend to be open of business by the start of the 2020-21 school year.
What’s next, you might ask? We expect to hear from HUD in about a month after they have had time to review our application. At that time, they will follow up with any additional inquiries they might have. In the meantime, we will start to put the pieces in order to have an environmental review done on the property. The environmental review is a requirement of the grant and must be done prior to any money being given. We will also start the process of gathering bids for the cost of the houses and their set up. As part of the grant, we are required to gather a minimum of 3 bids on any work we have done.
We are excited by all the alliances we have forged with other area organizations: Catholic Charities, Verde Valley Homeless Coalition, Manzanita Outreach, Angie’s House, AZ Sonshine, Old Town Mission, Sedona-Oak Creek Schools, Spectrum Health, Lion’s Club, Verde Valley Sanctuary, Flagstaff Shelter Services and some of the Sedona area faith communities. We continue to reach out and develop new relationships and partnerships. It is exciting to have such a diversity of people reaching out to assist the most vulnerable in our community.
In the last update, I mentioned AZ Sonshine, a project of the 7th Day Adventist Church. I am pleased to announce that we are moving forward with them and are going to be able to provide transportation for our 31 homeless children and their families to their free health care event in Prescott Valley in the middle of June. Additionally, we have been approved to have one of their clinics in Sedona in the fall of 2020. Their events provide free vision, dental and health care to anyone. There are also other services they might provide, depending upon the resources of the area: haircuts, massages, diabetes screening, addiction counseling, mental health counseling, etc. Just as a head ups, we will need many volunteers to assist with this event!
So that is our story of reaching out and extending the reach of Christ.
Now my request for help. Are you aware of anyone else who has provided transitional housing primarily for families? While we have several social service organizations lined up to help, we don't want to reinvent anything. So if you can give us any references, we would greatly appreciate your assistance.
Watch for our new website to be up and running around the middle of June: hopehouseofsedona.org.