Homeless shelter goal dead for another winter

Marley Holte is shelving a plan to open a homeless shelter at
the National Guard Armory this year. Two years after starting his
homeless shelter crusade, he is still without a building and
possibly further away from a solution to the problem than when he
started.
Hollister – Marley Holte is shelving a plan to open a homeless shelter at the National Guard Armory this year. Two years after starting his homeless shelter crusade, he is still without a building and possibly further away from a solution to the problem than when he started.

Holte wanted to have a shelter open by this winter, but has realized that’s not an option. Although he’s run into roadblocks, his goal is to start looking again for a facility at the start of the new year and have something open by next winter, he said.

“That’s my hope, but it was my hope to have one open this year and it didn’t happen,” he said. “I just don’t like the idea of people being out in the cold.”

While his plans for the armory aren’t looking good, he thinks it’s not out of the question

“I haven’t given it up, but I haven’t seen anything positive with it, either. After the holidays I’ll be out there again, but right now I’ve got my hands filled with turkeys.”

Holte heads the Marley Holte’s Community Assistance Program and provides free dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas. His dinner tomorrow is being held at Sacred Heart School from 11:30am to 2pm, he said.

Holte said officials with the Federal Aviation Administration told him he could have a temporary shelter at the armory, but he ran into trouble on a local level, he said. Officials at the FAA did not return phone calls Tuesday.

A couple months ago City Manager Clint Quilter was helping Holte make some headway. But Holte said he was helping him at the request of the City Council and the Council doesn’t support using the armory, he said.

“They don’t think it’s a good place for it – it’s too out of the way,” Holte said. “I said I had transportation but they just don’t think it’s a good idea. They’ve been very lukewarm about the whole thing.”

Supervisor Pat Loe said Holte’s work needs to be coupled with community support for anything to come to fruition.

“I mistakenly believed something was going to happen there (the armory). It hasn’t so it’s time we all get involved,” she said. “We can sit there and say the city or the county needs to be the lead agency… but it’s time we stop assessing blame and work together on a solution.”

City Councilman Robert Scattini said the City Council supports opening a shelter – just not at the airport.

The armory is right next to the runway and pilots and airport personnel have voiced concern about having a shelter so close to where planes arrive and take off, Scattini said.

Scattini suggested opening one at the Old Fremont School on Fourth Street or at the Southside Labor Camp on Southside Road.

“The county is supposed to be the lead agency on this, but the city is willing to help out in any way, shape or form,” Scattini said. “I’m all for a homeless shelter – I’m for it 150 percent and I don’t care where they put it. That’s just a bad place out there.”

Loe started looking for a building to convert into a shelter about three weeks ago when it became clear to her the armory wasn’t a viable option anymore, she said. She said many people have suggested city or county buildings, such as the old Southside Hospital, but she believes there are private buildings available.

“I’m sure there are other places,” she said. “If anybody has suggestions or ideas, let us know.”

A lack of an available building is not only costing the county’s homeless a roof over their head, it’s costing Holte federal funding dollars every year.

Originally he was eligible for $345,000 from the Federal Emergency Shelter Grant Program. The county Community Services and Workforce Development program receives the same grant to support its Southside Migrant Labor Camp. It provides temporary housing to homeless families during the winter months.

This year it only received $108,000 because of a lack of federal funding, said Deputy Director Maria Fehl.

Holte can apply for the same grant next year, Fehl said, but as time drags on the grant gets smaller.

With hopes of opening a shelter at the armory almost extinct, Holte has been trying to get a piece of land donated and build a shelter on it, he said.

While he said he’s talked to a couple of people about that, there’s nothing solid in the works there, either.

“There’s nothing going on,” he said. “I’m getting verbal support but no action.”

Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]

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