PRESCOTT – The Coalition for Compassion and Justice will soon have a new home for its now outdoor emergency shelter.
By next year, a 7,400-square-foot building off Miller Valley Road is slated to become a full-serve facility for the agency’s offices and other charitable operations, including the daily soup kitchen now located at the Prescott United Methodist Church on West Gurley Street.
“We do have keys,” Executive Director Paul Mitchell said of the former warehouse-type building on Madison that until a few months ago housed Miller Valley Indoor Art Market, which relocated to the Prescott Gateway mall.
The new location was made possible by the generosity of agency benefactor Howard Mechanic, who 12 days ago bought the vacant property for CCJ’s use and eventual ownership; CCJ will undertake a capital fundraising campaign to cover its portion of the building costs. Mechanic said he intends to give the agency plenty of time to work out the financial end of the arrangement.
The joint venture is to eventually be known as the Coalition for Compassion and Justice Howard Mechanic Social Justice Center.
“I’m happy to be in a position where I can do this,” said Mechanic, who in November 2015 provided the down payment for CCJ’s enlarged thrift store operation on Fair Street. “And I’m glad the money is going to a good purpose.”
CCJ leaders and other non-profit agency leaders are grateful this donation comes just before winter when the homeless who have been part of CCJ’s Safe Legal Sleep project need a dry, warm place rather than staying outdoors on the grounds of the thrift store.
In July, responding to the needs of local homeless who were struggling to find safe places to sleep at night where they would not be harassed or ticketed, CCJ offered the after-hours premises of the Fair Street thrift store to homeless men and women between 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
The project has been hailed by some as a wake-up call to the community; others have decried it as a “tent city” that is posing harm to area neighbors and businesses.
Mitchell is clear the search for a new home to house the shelter, and other CCJ services, was not done to appease those who oppose the Safe Legal Sleep project.
For the last 18 months, CCJ has been on the lookout for larger quarters to manage its outreach to the less fortunate of the community who require everything from daily meals, bedtime books for children, warm clothes and home repairs so they do not end up homeless. The emergency shelter is an expansion of CCJ’s services rooted in what they found was yet another unanswered need, leaders said.
In 2015, CCJ had 33,417 client visits for its various services, including 671 homeless individuals. Permanent housing for the homeless is the ultimate goal, Mitchell said.
In tandem with the opening of the emergency shelter, Mitchell and fellow non-profit leaders launched a “30 in 90” initiative; the mission is to find affordable rents for 30 homeless men and women in 90 days, sometime near Thanksgiving.
And there has been slow, steady progress, he and others said.
CCJ’s new Second Chance Housing program – donated recreational or mobile home trailers rehabbed into rental units – has expanded in recent months from 20 to 25 individuals. CCJ and others, including federally-funded agencies to benefit homeless veterans, are also fostering relationships with landlords so affordable units are made available to these prospective tenants.
U.S. VETS Executive Director Carole Benedict, and the leader of a non-profit agency collaborative seeking to address local homelessness, said she is proud of the efforts to be creative about new housing opportunities, and grateful CCJ is getting needed assistance as it strives to help the most vulnerable.
“I’m excited for them,” Benedict said of CCJ’s new location.
As with any building venture, CCJ must meet all the city’s building and land use requirements before it can gets its certificate of occupancy, Mitchell said. The only time frame he can now offer is “as soon as possible.”
“It’s a terrific location,” Mitchell said. “We’re running as fast as we can to get in there as affordably as possible.”