U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, urged the Prescott Area Women's Shelter to think outside the box about ways to expand.
"I've asked the state and local municipalities to start looking at assets - houses that are under federal jurisdiction, federal buildings - and asking for them in lieu of past contractual obligations that haven't been met," Gosar said.
Gosar recommended that community members create an inventory of federal buildings that are unoccupied, closed, or partially used and come up with new ways to use them. The next step would be to approach private business as a partner, and then present the idea to Gosar to take to a government panel.
For example, a Tuba City clinic wanted to expand, so Gosar proposed that they ask for a boarded-up federal building nearby, describe their renovation plans, and suggested they approach McDonald's to include a Ronald McDonald House in the expansion.
"Then it's hard to say no," Gosar said. "You've taken private industry, you've consolidated here, and now we're taking kids who would be cancer patients shipped to Flagstaff or Phoenix and we're taking care of them at home. Tell me how you're going to beat that."
Maggie Garvey, a PAWS board member, asked if Gosar knew of any buildings in their area, but he did not. Gosar suggested PAWS look for foreclosed apartment buildings that could be used for transitional housing.
"One of the first things that must be met for federal buildings - is there a need to shelter the homeless?" Gosar said.
The shelter is looking into transitional housing. "With winter right around the corner, it kills us that we don't have enough beds," said Lori Deutsch, a volunteer.
"As you can see, this room is about serving a lot of women," said Carmen Frederic, director of PAWS. "We basically are full all the time and have a waiting list."
Gosar said the shelter reminded him of home.
"I grew up in a house that had three bedrooms and there were 10 kids," Gosar said. "So we had one room with all the boys in it and stuff everywhere. But it's not how big the house is - it's what kind of home fire you've got in the house."
Frederic told Gosar the shelter started in a church basement in 2007, moved to its current home in 2008, and that 110 volunteers keep it running.
"I grew up in a broken home, but I pushed my way through school. I graduated high school and college in the top of my class and have a bachelor's degree in criminology," said Tasha Leatherman, a shelter resident. "A few months ago, my life went downhill and I had no support - no family, no friends - and I found Prescott Area Women's Shelter."
Leatherman said with the shelter's help, she's building a better future.
"I never had hope until I came here," Leatherman said.
Jane McCaskill, a former shelter resident, told Gosar she came to PAWS after a divorce.
"A lot of resources were available to me as well as the staff," McCaskill said. "I have my own home now. I have an incredible job, and life is great. If it wasn't for this shelter, I really don't know where I would have gone."
"Prescott, and the area, takes care of its neighbors, and they take that responsibility seriously," said Garvey.
Garvey said PAWS does not rely on state and federal funding.
"When the shelter looks to federal funding, we often find that we don't qualify," said Garvey, noting HUD funding focuses on transitional housing, and FEMA funding ended this year, since the amount of poverty in Yavapai County no longer qualifies.
"What you're feeling here isn't just Prescott - it's everywhere," Gosar said.