ST. GEORGE – Funding for the creation of a new homeless shelter was approved by the St. George City Council Thursday. The shelter project was one of a handful of items recommended by city staff for potential funding through a federal grant the city receives annually for community improvement. Among other items approved for funding were roadwork and programs benefiting low-income families.
The City Council approved $250,000 to go toward a new homeless shelter for the St. George area. Recently the need for a new and expanded facility was presented to the council by representatives of Dixie Care & Share.
Dixie Care & Share currently offers a plethora of services, including a food pantry, temporary and transitional housing, counseling services and work placement, among other services. As the area continues to grow, so do the numbers of the homeless and in-need in the community. Dixie Care & Share does what it can with its current resources, but it needs more space to accommodate the growing need.
There are other organizations, such as the Utah Food Bank and Volunteer Center of Washington County, that also aid the homeless. While they are separate entities, they also coordinate their efforts where possible.
As well, particular services offered to those in need are located in different parts of the city. While the Southwest Behavioral Health Center and Volunteer Center of Washington County are only a few blocks away, the emergency winter shelter is located on the Black Hill at the old airport.
The goal of the new facility is not only to provide a greater number of beds, but also to bring all of the services offered by Dixie Care & Share and others under one roof, Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager said.
“We’re trying to pull all those groups together,” Mortensen said, adding that while each group does a phenomenal job on its own, more good will be accomplished by uniting their efforts under one roof. As the different groups are brought together, they and the people they serve will be able to benefit from resources the city has access to, such as additional federal funding and funding for low-income housing.
The City of St. George “has never been involved like we plan to be,” he said.
Dixie Care & Share officials recommended a location for a new homeless shelter on a 3-acre lot just off Industrial Park Road. The city is also looking at the possibility of buying a building that may serve the same purpose, Mortensen said.
City Manager Gary Esplin said $300,000 had already been set aside for the shelter project. The additional $250,000 approved by the City Council, Thursday, brings that to $550,000. The additional funds will become available when the new budget year starts on July 1.
Dixie Care & Share currently maintains 20 beds in a male dorm, 16 beds in a female dorm and three family dorms with 16 beds each.
“We’re full every night,” said Adam Dunn, chairman of Dixie Care & Share’s board of trustees.
With the new facility Dunn proposed, the shelter could expand to 50 beds for men, 40 beds for women, 10 family units and 30 units of transitional housing. The larger shelter would also enable Dixie Care & Share to expand its other services as well.
Approved funding for the new shelter project comes from a Community Development Block Grant from the federal government. According to the block grant website, the CDBG program “is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.”
Funds for the shelter and other items approved by the City Council will not be available for use until the new budget year that starts July 1. Though the council has approved where they would like to see the grant money go, the public can still chime in during an upcoming 30-day comment period and yet-to-be scheduled public hearing. If no changes in funding allocation toward the proposed shelter project and other items are demanded by the public, funding allocations previously approved by the City Council remain unaltered.
Aside from the grants, Mortensen said the city will be looking to partner with state, federal, and religious organizations for additional funding and resources as needed.
Along with the $250,000 approved for the homeless shelter, $50,000 was allocated to a home down payment program for low-income families, $6,500 went to the Family Support Center for repainting the center and replacing backyard play set equipment at the , $37,000 was approved for the The Learning Center for Families for a safety surface for it’s playground and an automatic door opener, and $ 16,500 went to St. George Water Services for curb and gutter works in the Dixie Downs area.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a resident expressed concerns about traffic at the intersection of Tuweap Drive and Sunset Boulevard. He noted that drivers speed down Tuweap Drive, and that at the intersection, children crossing the street on their way to either Snow Canyon Middle School and High School have to dodge traffic at the intersection.
Cameron Cutler, the city’s public works director, said he was willing to look at traffic studies for the intersection and see what could be done. For the time being, it was recommended that a crosswalk could be put in place on Tuweap Drive.
The council amended the city’s general plan to allow for a 47.5 acre business park and high density residential area located both sides of the incoming Mall Drive road extension toward the Mall Drive Bridge. The action was approved with a series of hazard mitigation recommendations attached, as a small part of the property extends into the Virgin River’s 100-year flood plain.
The proposed amendment was a part of a public hearing in which resident and attorney Dabney asked the city to either abide by its own rules, or rewrite them. He cited city code that, to his understanding, restricted anything being built in the 100-year flood plain. By allowing building on the flood plain, among other things, Dabney said the city was messing with Mother Nature. “We’re not going to win that battle,” he said.
However, Esplin said the people could build on the flood plain as long as as certain requirement are met. He also said the city has followed its policy and also done quite a bit to protect the Virgin River and also impede erosion.
Following the meeting, Mayor Jon Pike said the city may review its flood plain policy in the future and clarify certain language in order to avoid any confusion.
The city approved a firm gas transportation agreement with Questar Gas Company. The agreement will enable Questar to transport gas to the city year-round and not just during the summer months.
Ed. Note: The article has been updated to offer clarification on the process the approved grant funding must go through before it is finalized.
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