Las Cruces struggles against deadline to find spot for homeless veterans
LAS CRUCES — The clock is ticking for the city of Las Cruces and some of the homeless military veterans living here.
If the clock runs out, the city stands to lose at least $145,000 in federal funding. For eligible veterans, it could mean they remain homeless, and possibly without opportunities to make a better life for themselves.
A three-year window is about to expire on the city to use a $145,000 Veterans Administration Homeless Providers Grant to help homeless and near homeless veterans find permanent shelter. At the center of the dilemma is the city’s inability to find a facility that can serve as a permanent shelter for those eligible veterans.
“I’m aware of the situation, but I wasn’t aware it had reached that point,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said. “It’s imperative we do everything we can to rectify this. Whatever it takes, we have the tools, we have to make it work.”
Ray Seva, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, said state officials intend to come to Las Cruces on Monday to gather more information and to push for a resolution.
“We don’t know much about it,” Seva said. “But Cabinet Secretary Timothy Hale is coming Monday to meet with city officials and learn more about it. Sure, it is a concern.”
In September 2009, the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) was awarded the grant and funding for a per diem program to reimburse MVCH costs for housing veterans for as long as 24 months, while they transitioned out of
Nicole Martinez, MVCH interim executive director, said there have been continuous efforts to establish a permanent shelter for veterans, but it’s been difficult to find a suitable facility. City officials have identified the Child Crisis Center, on the MVCH campus, as a potential solution, but that would require that program to move elsewhere. Facilities with the Mesilla Valley Housing Authority and the Hospitality House have also been explored.
“The conditions of the grant are that it must be implemented three years from the time the award was granted. This September marks the third year,” Martinez said.
“The VA Program specialist has said if we have a viable space and evidence that the program will start a month or two late, they can grant an extension.
“… I do not know of any other locations that might house up to 22 or more veterans that has a kitchen, ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act compliant) bathrooms, sprinkler systems, and is near to homeless social services. It does not have to be a shelter or an apartment complex, but could even be a warehouse that has all the aforementioned amenities.”
David Dollahon, Neighborhood Services and Planning Administrator for the city, said city staff members have been communicating with officials with the Child Crisis Center and are awaiting to hear back from them.
“Our intentions were to contact them again on Monday,” Dollahon said. “Very understandably, they have put a lot of time and effort into developing the Child Crisis Center into a very nice facility. We’re fully aware they have been discussing the situation and weighing all of the pros and cons about any potential move.”
Finding a place to live
- In September 2009, the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) was awarded a $145,000 Veterans Administration Homeless Providers Grant to help reduce homelessness among military veterans.
- The conditions of the grant require that it must be implemented within three years.
- However, the city, and MVCH still haven’t been able to find a suitable and permanent facility for those needy veterans.
- If the city can’t find, and renovate a facility to meet VA requirements, the city would lose its grant funding.
- In May, MVCH helped 52 homeless and near homeless veterans.
A Veterans Administration website providing more details about that federal agency’s Homeless Providers grant and per diem programs is at www.va.gov/homeless/gpd.asp.
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